Article published in:Language Documentation and Endangerment in Africa
Edited by James Essegbey, Brent Henderson and Fiona Mc Laughlin
[Culture and Language Use 17] 2015
► pp. 253–276
Archaeological inspiration and historical inference
Directions for Edoid linguistic studies
This paper highlights potential historical inferences one can draw about economic lifestyle from lexical patterns of the Edoid speaking Emai people. The selected inferences derive from the complementary use of morphology in the coding of basic categories of Emai foodstuffs. While plant and animal domains each utilize endocentric and exocentric compounds as well as derivational morphology, inflectional morphology is not uniformly engaged across semantic domains. In particular, noun class prefix pairs, reflecting a reduced gender system, obligatorily encode grammatical number on basic level terms only in the animal domain. Given that the Emai inhabit the forest zone fringe and practice agriculture in a geographic area inhospitable to herd animals of the type recognized by inflectional marking, this coding asymmetry is suggestive of an earlier pastoral lifestyle. Accordingly, any proposal for an Emai and, by extension, an Edoid homeland at the rainforest edge, as proposed in Elugbe (1979), would be too restrictive. It is therefore argued that Edoid wide lexical investigations, particularly of lexemes coding animals and plants, ought to pursue the possibility of a more northerly homeland, one that might extend north of the Niger- Benue confluence. Results have the potential to enhance understanding of not only historical evolution within the Edoid group but also population interaction across the Sahelo-Sudanic landscape.
Published online: 22 October 2015
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