This dissertation explores the morphophonology of Joola Eegimaa (Eegimaa hereafter), an endangered West Atlantic language spoken in the southern region of Senegal. Previous researches on this language focus on the morphosyntax (Bassene 2007 and Tendeng 2007) and the semantics, specifically the semantic motivation of Eegimaa noun class system (Sagna 2008). This study is the first work devoted to the morphophonology of Eegimaa and therefore contributes significantly to the documentation of this language.
This study provides a detailed description of Eegimaa morphology and phonology, and presents three case studies of such processes as reduplication, nasal assimilation and vowel harmony which are all very common in this language. The morphological analysis proposed in this study offers a detailed account of Eegimaa nominal classification and concord system as well as the rules for word formation in this language. This dissertation also provides valuable information regarding the Eegimaa phoneme inventory, the various processes affecting phonemes, and offers significant insights into the syllable structure of Eegimaa. The results of the experimental studies I conducted have revealed that vowel length is not a phonological feature in Eegimaa and that vowel sequences are always parsed into nuclei of separate syllables. I also argue, based on the results of the experiments and the behavior of ‘prenasalized’ consonants and geminates that in Eegimaa, these sounds should also be treated as a sequence of two segments instead of one Eegimaa reduplication is very complex and shows a dual behavior of consonants in the reduplicant coda. Voiceless singleton consonants and glides are deleted when they occur in the reduplicant coda whereas voiced consonants and liquids completely assimilate to the onset of the base. I attribute this dual behavior of consonants to a difference in moraicity, with voiceless singleton consonants and glides being nonmoraic and voiced singleton consonants and liquids being moraic; a claim supported by the acoustic study I conducted. Eegimaa nasal consonants also exhibit a dual behavior. When a nasal is followed by a voiced obstruent, it assimilates to the place of articulation of the obstruent. However, when a nasal is followed by a voiceless obstruent or an approximant, complete nasal assimilation occurs. I strongly argue that the two types of nasal assimilation processes are attributable to the Nasal-Consonant (NC) requirements in this language. Indeed, Eegimaa only allows NC sequences consisting of a nasal and a homorganic voiced obstruent and therefore, whenever a nasal is followed by a voiced obstruent, it assimilates to the place of the obstruent and when the nasal is followed by a voiceless obstruent or an approximant, complete assimilation occurs since the sequences nasal-voiceless obstruent (NC̥) and nasal-approximant (NC̞) are not allowed. The analysis of Eegimaa morphophonological processes is undertaken within the framework of Optimality Theory. However, it should be pointed out that the data upon which this dissertation draws do not favor any specific type of analysis. Therefore, throughout this dissertation, I adopt an approach which combines both descriptive and theoretical analyses and in many cases, these analyses are supplemented by experimental studies.
Language Research and Linguistics