download Best African Languages: An Introduction By Bernd Heine –

This book has been generally well compiled, and well written Be aware, though, that while it is a good introduction for undergraduate students it is still intended for college students of linguistics, as you will find much terminology relating to linguistics and little attempt to explain that terminology If you are interested in a hair splitting comparison based analysis of african languages according to their lexical, syntactical, and morphological features, this book is for you If you re interested in actually learning one of these african languages, this book isn t for you.The book does claim to have something for everyone intersted in african languages , such as a section on socio linguistics And that may be true In the end, though, it would probably serve most people as an only occasionally consulted reference book for the library, as it does have an extensive index of languages by name, and a subject index, allowing you to locate, for example, the page discussing ergativity.I have to admit that I m not in the best position to critique scholarly publications on linguistics I am only passively interested in the science of linguistics However I am very interested in languages, and I still found most sections of this book a little too tedious for my background. This book is an introduction to African languages and linguistics, covering typology, structure and sociolinguistics The twelve chapters are written by a team of fifteen eminent Africanists, and their topics include the four major language groupings Niger Congo, Nilo Saharan, Afroasiatic and Khoisan , the core areas of modern theoretical linguistics phonology, morphology, syntax , typology, sociolinguistics, comparative linguistics, and language, history and society Basic concepts and terminology are explained for undergraduates and non specialist readers, but each chapter also provides an overview of the state of the art in its field, and as such will be referred to also byadvanced students and general linguists The book brings this range of material together in accessible form for anyone wishing to learnabout this challenging and fascinating field. This is a very informative book, with a detailed overview of the phonology, morphology, syntax, typology and a detailed chapter called Language and Society The chapters on historical linguistics are generally very disappointing, very influenced by the lumper philosophy of Joseph Greenberg Only in relation to the Khoisan families, the Greenberg classification is rejected, and Khoisan is appropriately split up into several families and isolates But with the supposed Nilo Saharan phylum, the evidence is just as weak, with no credible sound correspondences ever published, and grammatical similarities between the many Nilo Saharan families are not common Yet the Nilo Saharan chapter is very enthusiastic about the languages being proven related, when they are not Likewise with the Niger Congo phylum, there is little published on sound correspondences between the various families, beyond some excellent work comparing the sound changes of Kwa with Bantu So otherwise the main evidence is grammatical similarities, and some vocabulary similarities They are enough to prove that Benue Congo, Kwa, Kru, Gur, and Adamawa, and maybe Atlantic, are probably related, but there is in reality too few evidence to connect with them the Mande, Dogon, Ijo, Ubangian and Kordofanian languages The book does present several sound correspondences comparing Ijo with Bantu, but the examples are too few, and they might be due to borrowings from Benue Congo languages and also to coincidental similarities With Afro Asiatic phylum, likewise the evidence is not sufficient The vocabulary similarities between the families are too few, nobody has published credible sound correspondences, so the main evidence is grammatical, mainly the prefix and suffix conjugations That evidence looks strong, though there is always the possibility of borrowing, just like for example Alsea perhaps borrowed a whole conjugation from a Salishan language, unless it is evidence for a very distant relationship Or there is always the possibility of a coincidental similarity, like Proto Eastern Miwok has a conjugation that looks very Indo European, though given the huge geographical distance, it is very unlikely to be evidence of an ancient relationship between the Utian family and the Indo European family And other branches of Utian have no trace of this conjugation So it is surely a coincidental similarity Greenberg used the same method based mainly on mass comparison, on Papuan languages, on Amerindian languages, and on trying to connect Indo European to north Asian languages and the Eskimo Aleut family, but in all these cases, reviewers have generally rejected his conclusions But in Africa, with the exception of Khoisan, his conclusions have been generally enthusiastically received, to the detriment of African linguistics Mass comparison is not useful, due to the complicating factors of borrowings and coincidental similarities So we need enough vocabulary similarities to establish credible sound correspondences And the similarities comparing families within each phylum are too few to establish credible sound correspondences So on this the book is disappointing, though unfortunately still within mainstream thinking in African historical linguistics.