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  • Phénomènes de contact entre les langues Minyanka et Bambara (Sud du Mali) by Klaudia Dombrowsky-Hahn
  • Annette Harrison
Phénomènes de contact entre les langues Minyanka et Bambara (Sud du Mali). By Klaudia Dombrowsky-Hahn. (Gur monographs/Monographies voltaïques 3.) Ed. by Gudrun Miehe, Brigitte Reineke, and Manfred von Roncador. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 1999. Pp. xii, 372. ISBN 3896451138. €34.77.

Dombrowksy-Hahn’s 1997 doctoral dissertation from the University of Bayreuth describes linguistic evidence of language contact between two Niger-Congo languages. Minyanka is a Senoufo language spoken in southern Mali near the western border of Burkina Faso. Bambara belongs to the Mande language group and is a language of wider communication. Data were collected from villages in the Ségou Region representing two of the eleven Minyanka dialects: Mpessoba on the western side of the region where the Sanyi dialect is spoken, with a longer and more intensive contact with Bambara; and Yorosso on the eastern side where the Gbajenga dialect is spoken, with a shorter, less intensive period of contact with Bambara.

The objective of D-H’s study is to demonstrate the validity of Sarah Thomason and Terence Kaufman’s claims (Language contact, creolization, and genetic linguistics, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988) concerning the direction, degree, and motivation for borrowing linguistic phenomena as well as the usefulness of their model for predicting the potential for language shift. As she systematically investigates each level of linguistic contact (phonological, morphological, lexical, and syntactic), D-H assigns the level of change to the scale of sociolinguistic contact developed by Thomason and Kaufman. On the low end of the scale is the sociolinguistic situation of occasional contact characterized by low bilingualism in the speech community. At the high end of the scale is a language that has undergone structural modification as a result of linguistic pressure from a second language and whose speakers are in a position to shift completely to the second language as a result of social and cultural pressure.

The introductory chapter begins with a background description of the historical and sociolinguistic contexts of the twoMinyanka dialects. The author then discusses theoretical perspectives on language contact, borrowing, and codeswitching, highlighting work by Einar Haugen and Uriel Weinreich and focusing on the contrast between borrowing and codeswitching. The discussion closes with a description of the quantitative method used to distinguish forms borrowed into the Minyanka lexicon from those used in codeswitching. Crucial to the support of her hypothesis is showing that Minyanka speakers in the high contact situation with Bambara are borrowing from Bambara, as opposed to switching between the two codes, and that this borrowing is pervasive, resulting in the alteration of the structure of the Minyanka dialects, though to different degrees that appear to be related to the length and intensity of contact.

The layout of each of the six chapters in the body of the dissertation includes a presentation of the applicable formulation of Thomason and Kaufman’s hypothesis followed by theoretical comments relevant to the linguistic phenomenon to be treated (phonological system, nominal morphology, noun class system, genitive constructions, relative clauses, and adverbial clauses). Next the author presents data from each Minyanka dialect; comparisons are made between the two, and relevant features from each dialect are then compared with Bambara. Each chapter concludes with a summary of changes discovered in each dialect as a result of contact and assignment of the results to a point on Thomason and Kaufman’s scale. [End Page 837]

D-H’s conclusion is that the two Minyanka dialects can be classified as belonging to level 2 and 3 on Thomason and Kaufman’s scale. The classification is not uniform for all types of borrowing. The facts described in her dissertation confirm her hypothesis that the cultural and linguistic pressure of Bambara has resulted in a more advanced degree of borrowing by the Minyanka spoken in Mpessoba that has had a longer and more pervasive contact with Bambara than the Minyanka spoken in Yorosso, to the extent that it has caused systematic restructuring of the language.

Annette Harrison
University of California, Santa Barbara/Summer Institute of Linguistics


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