Annotated Swadesh wordlists for the Nara group (East Sudanic family).

Languages included: Modern Nara [nar-nrb]; Old Nara [nar-nrm].


Main sources

Bender 1968 = Lionel M. Bender. Analysis of a Barya wordlist. In: Anth\-ropological Linguistics, 10, 9, pp. 1-24. // A 200-item wordlist of Nara (Barya), collected by the author and annotated with preliminary etymological findings.
Reinisch 1874 = Leo Reinisch. Die Barea-Sprache. Grammatik, Text und Wör\-terbuch. Nach den handschriftlichen Materialien von Werner Munzin\-ger Pa\-scha. Wien: Wilhelm Braumüller. // Detailed description of Nara (Barea) grammar, accompanied by illustrative texts and a large Nara-German vocabulary. Based on field notes taken by Werner Munzinger in 1861-62 and subsequently reworked into monograph form by Leo Reinisch.

Additional sources

Bender 1971: Lionel M. Bender. The Languages of Ethiopia: A New Le\-xicostatistic Classification and Some Problems of Diffusion. In: Anthro\-po\-lo\-gical Linguistics, 13, 5, pp. 165-288. // Bender's preliminary lexicostatistical research on the languages of Ethiopia. Contains 100-item wordlists collected by the author on most of the languages of Ethiopia, Nara included.
Hayward 2000: Richard J. Hayward. Observations on Tone in the Hi\-gir Dialect of Nara. In: "Mehr als nur Worte...": Afrikanistische Beiträge zum 65. Geburtstag von Franz Rottland. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, pp. 247-267. // Brief paper on the tonal properties of Nara. Contains original fieldwork by the author, including (for the first time) accurate prosodic notation for the language.
Thompson 1976: E. David. Thompson. Nera. In: The Non-Semitic Lan\-guages of Ethiopia. Ed. by M. Lionel Bender. East Lansing: Mi\-chigan State Univer\-sity, pp. 484-494. // Brief grammatical sketch of Nara.


1. General.

The Nara language of Ethiopia has been known in literature since the mid-19th century, but a detailed, accurate, modern description of its grammar and vocabulary is still lacking. The only major sources on Nara vocabulary, acceptable for lexicostatistical purposes, are (a) [Reinisch 1874], an old study based on fieldwork by W. Munzinger, with sufficient quantities, but insufficient quality of data; and (b) [Bender 1968, 1971] - the results of M. L. Bender's fieldwork, more recent in origin but, as comparative analysis shows, not highly accurate in terms of either phonetic transcription or semantic glossing.

There are quite a few lexical discrepancies between the Munzinger/Reinisch data, on one hand, and Bender's data, on the other; a few may be tentatively or reliably explained as results of semantic inaccuracy on the part of one or the other source, but for another few no such evidence may be presented. It is more than likely that the lexical descriptions were carried out for different dialects. Unfortunately, [Reinisch 1874] does not accurately specify the sociolinguistic situation of the dialect that served as the basis for description. It seems that both the old and the new sources describe the more common Higir dialect than the less common Mogoreb dialect, but this is only explicitly stated in the case of Bender's work.

For the sake of accuracy, we have prepared two different wordlists for the "Bender" variety of Nara, called "Modern Nara", and the "Munzinger/Reinisch" variety of Nara, which we call "Old Nara" - from a certain point of view, this is formally accurate, but, of course, both names have to be taken with a grain of salt. It does seem quite likely, however, that "Bender's Nara" ("Modern Nara") is not a direct natural offshoot of "Munzinger's Nara" ("Old Nara"), but rather that both are slightly different (sub)dialects that go back to a single common ancestor, separated from the 19th-20th century states by at least several centuries of independent development.

2. Transcription.

The general phonological system of Nara is relatively simple and typologically "plain". The main difference between Reinisch and Bender is that the former generally resorts to a phonological system of transcription, merging the numerous (particularly vocalic) allophones, whereas Bender's transcription is largely phonetic. Since we are not 100% sure of the phonological analysis offered by Bender himself, we prefer to preserve his allophones in our transliteration rather than convert them to phonemic notation.

On the other hand, Munzinger's notation involves a few symbols whose phonetic meanings remain unexplained. In the case of "umlaut" vowels ü, ö, their values may be assumed to match the values of the corresponding German symbols (i. e. front labialized vowels); however, the difference between and remains completely unclear (open and close variants?), and, since new research shows that there is no phonological opposition between any variants of e in Nara, we prefer to transliterate both of them simply as e, to avoid any spurious reinterpretations.

Other elements of transliteration involve:

(a) Munzinger's = UTS ɲ; = UTS ŋ; j = UTS ʓ;

(b) Bender's = UTS ɲ; j = UTS ʓ.

Database compiled and annotated by: G. Starostin (last update: April 2014).