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Wolof: a grammatical sketch

Abstract

Wolof is the main vernacular language of Senegal, where it also used as a vehicular language, spoken by most of the Senegalese people as one language of their repertoire. This language belongs to the northern branch of the Atlantic group of the Niger-Congo phylum, and seems relatively isolated in this branch. This grammatical sketch presents its major linguistic features of interest from a typological and areal perspective as follows: the main phonological features are presented in section (1). Sections (2) to (5) are dedicated to word categories and their morphology. This includes, a summary of the basic typological characteristics and word classes of the language (sec. 2), then a presentation of the noun class system, determiners, modifiers, and pronouns (sec. 3), derivation and compounding (sec. 4), and the verbal system (sec. 5). The last section (sec. 6) presents the clause and beyond, covering information structure, the basic clause structure, coordination and paratactic clause chaining, subordination, ending up with sentence patterns. Occasionally, (short-term) diachronic comparison is made to entlighten some problematic aspects of the contemporary Wolof. Wolof shares several morpho-syntactic features with other Atlantic languages (in particular those from the Northern branch excluding Mel languages), such as a noun class system, (remnants of) consonant alternation, a rich set of demonstratives based on spatial deixis, a large inventory of derivational (mostly verbal) suffixes and auxiliaries, a remarkable verbal morphology integrating focus and negation, and an SVO and head-modifier basic word order. This language also has no adjectives but many ideophones. Nevertheless, Wolof departs from other Atlantic languages in several respects. This language has undegone significative changes leading to simplifications or reductions but also to innovative restructurings, both producing some typologically rare features. Some aspects of this evolution are shared by other Atlantic languages but pushed here to remarquable extends without destroying the functionality of the original system.

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Linguistics
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hal-01513269 , version 1 (31-08-2022)

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Stéphane Robert. Wolof: a grammatical sketch. Friederike Lüpke. The Oxford guide to the Atlantic languages of West Africa, Oxford University Press, In press. ⟨hal-01513269⟩

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