Lexicostatistical Studies in East Sudanic I: On the genetic unity of Nubian-Nara-Tama
George Starostin (Russian State University for the Humanities / Russian Presidential Academy, gstarst@rinet.ru)
Journal of Language Relationship, № 15/1-2, 2017 - p.87-113
In this paper, I present a detailed lexicostatistical survey of the reconstructed 50-item wordlists (the “more stable” half of the classic Swadesh list) for three language groups of Northeast Africa — Nubian, Nara, and Tama, commonly ascribed to the East Sudanic family and often described in related literature as forming a specifically tight-knit node within that taxon. The survey shows that both the number and the nature of direct lexicostatistical matches between these three groups is plausibly interpretable as decisive evidence for genetic relationship, adding one more formal confirmation to the evidence previously assembled by J. Greenberg, M. L. Bender, Claude Rilly and other scholars. Glottochronological interpretation of the evidence, however, indicates that Nubian-Nara-Tama should be dated to at least the 5th millennium BC, which makes it older than Indo-European and presumably very hard to reconstruct in sufficient detail. The paper itself is the first in a series of planned publications that will explore the East Sudanic hypothesis from a combined lexicostatistical and etymological perspective.
Keywords: Nilo-Saharan languages, East Sudanic languages, Nubian languages, Tama languages, African historical linguistics