This paper contributes to the diachronic study of consonants and consonant mutation in the Northern Atlantic languages (Niger-Congo). While it has been proposed (Klingenheben 1925, Storch 1996, Stewart 2007, Holst 2008) that Grade I of the root-initial mutation system originated in postvocalic lenition triggered by vowel-final prefixes, what has not been addressed is whether this lenition also applied to consonants elsewhere in the root. Through analysis of cognates in eleven Northern Atlantic languages, this work demonstrates that lenited consonants indeed make up the majority of non-initial consonants. Where unlenited consonants are found, many may be traced back to geminates, which likely existed in the proto-language. These results should provide impetus for further reconstruction of Northern Atlantic roots and consonant inventories.
Selected Proceedings of the 44th Annual Conference on African Linguistics
edited by Ruth Kramer, Elizabeth C. Zsiga, and One Tlale Boyer
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