Nominal classification in West African languages
Coordinators: Ines Fiedler (Humboldt University Berlin) and Tom Güldemann (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History)
West African languages show a considerable diversity in the domain of nominal classification beyond the well-known Niger-Congo “noun class” system of the Bantu-type. The diversity ranges from languages with fully functional gender systems (e.g., in Niger-Congo, Chadic, Ijoid, etc.) and newly emerging classifier systems (often besides existing gender systems, e.g., in Bantoid of Niger- Congo) over languages showing traits of the earlier existence of gender (e.g., noun prefixes in such Niger-Congo groups as Yoruboid, Gbe, etc.) to languages with very few signs of nominal classification (e.g., in Mande). Moreover, there is diversity within each group of these classification systems, too. Thus, gender systems can be divided according to their basic assignment criteria into those based on animacy, humanness, sex or a co-occurrence of these features. Equally variable is the number of genders, ranging from simple bipartite systems to systems with more than a dozen genders.
This panel wants to bring together researchers working on the full diversity of nominal classification in West Africa discussing such topics as the following:
- the synchronic description of different systems of nominal classification in single languages
- the interaction of nominal classification with other grammatical phenomena, e.g., between gender and number, etc.
- the morphological and syntactic features of nominal classification
- the typologically problematic notion of “noun class” in Niger-Congo
- multiple (aka "concurrent") systems of noun classification in single languages
- the historical origin and development of nominal classification systems
- historical and areal patterns of noun classification in and across West Africa