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Joola Keeraak : A grammatical introduction


This is the first grammatical sketch of Keeraak (also referenced as Keeraku or Her), an Atlantic language belonging to the Joola cluster and spoken in the Kabrousse village, Casamance, South-West Senegal, Keeraak shares with other Atlantic languages several morpho-syntactic features such as its rich and fully operative noun class system, a large inventory of derivational (mostly verbal) suffixes, a small number of true adjectives but many ideophones, and a remarkable set of demonstratives with three degree of deictic distance. Other features make it a typical Joola (and Bak) language: it does not show any consonant alternation, has a lateral fricative /ɬ/, three locative classes, locative copulas, complex TAM paradigms, and two sets of bound subject prefixes with an inclusive/exclusive opposition for the 1PL person, which are clearly related to those of other Joola languages as are all the personal morphemes and most of the derivational suffixes.Lastly, Keeraak shows some remarkable features such as the followings: the absence of/p/, which has been spirantised to /f/ realised [ɸ], the inconsistency of vowel harmony (probably undergoing restructuration), the ‘obligatory’ default determiner, some specific verbal derivational suffixes such as the aesthetic or the assistive, and the (ʊ)wa negation. Keeraak also makes an extensive use of the three spatial deictics across several parts of speech, having systematised the combination of these distance suffixes with the three locative class morphemes (deconnected from the lexicon) used to specify the nature of the space (large, small, inner) to produce various morphemes. But most of all, Keeraak shows a remarkable verbal system contrasting with most existing descriptions of Joola languages. Two types of reasons made it difficult to sort out and analyze the twenty paradigms of this inflectional system: first, its complex morphology, second, the morphophonological rules that blur the common underlying patterns. As for morphology, the main difficulties are threefold: (a) Keeraak makes use of two sets of bound subject prefixes in an at first puzzling complementary distribution; moreover, some verbal inflections also requires the free personal pronouns; (b) focus and negation are expressed through verbal morphology; and most of all (c) beside simple forms using TAM suffixes, the language also yields complex verb forms made of an inflectional copula, particles, and also more or less grammaticalised auxiliaries (with personal prefixes both on the verb stem and on the auxiliaries). This morphological complexity is made harder to uncover by the following morphophonological factors: (a) the complex paradigms are generally realised in shortened or fused forms after vowel assimilation, contraction or haplology; moreover, some inflectional paradigms show morphological irregularities; (b) there is a strong tendency to assimilate the vowels of the auxiliaries or verbal particles with the subject affixes, and in the case of complex forms it is sometimes difficult to decide whether the vowel includes an underlying subject affix or not; (c) the very common completive suffix has three possible realisations, conditioned by the phonological environment.
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Dates and versions

hal-01513257 , version 1 (24-04-2017)
hal-01513257 , version 2 (17-12-2021)


  • HAL Id : hal-01513257 , version 2


Stéphane Robert, Guillaume Segerer. Joola Keeraak : A grammatical introduction. Friederike Lüpke. The Oxford guide to the Atlantic languages of West Africa, Oxford University Press, inPress. ⟨hal-01513257v2⟩
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