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

Languages included: Tama [tam-tmm]; Erenga [tam-ere]; Sungor [tam-sng]; Miisiirii [tam-mis]; Ibiri [tam-ibi]; Abuu Shaarib [tam-abs].


Edgar 1991 = John Edgar. Tama Group Lexicon. Ms. // A large, officially unpublished (but practically print-ready) comparative vocabulary that compiles all hitherto known lexical data on the various Tama languages. Includes the results of the author's own fieldwork on Tama, Erenga, Miisiirii, and Ibiri, as well as numerous data collected by other researchers.

Bombay 2007 = Elaine Bombay. Enquête sociolinguistique sur les langues tama et assangori parlers du Tchad et du Soudan. SIL International. // Results of a sociolinguistic survey on various Tama-speaking areas conducted in March 2002. Includes complete 227-item lists on five subdialects of Tama proper (but not Sungor/Assangori).

Note: Since all of the comparative data were extracted directly from Edgar 1991 rather than from primary sources (most of which are represented by unpublished and generally inaccessible manuscripts anyway), we only provide page references to Edgar 1991 together with abbreviations indicating the general provenance of the form. The complete list of abbreviated names of individual researchers is as follows:

[Ar.] = J. Arkell. Tama. Ms (SOAS, London). Collected in the 1930s.

[Ba.] = H. Barth. Abuu Shaarib. Data collected in the 1850s, published in: P. A. Benton. Notes on some languages of West Sudan, in\-clu\-ding twenty four unpublished vocabularies of Barth. London, 1912.

[Dr.] = P. Doornbos. (A) Tama. Published in: Paul Doornbos, M. Lionel Bender. Langua\-ges of Wadai-Darfur. // Nilo-Saharan Language Studies. Ed. by M. Lionel Ben\-der. Michigan: East Lansing, 1983, pp. 42-79. (B) Erenga. Ms., 1979. (C) Miisiirii. Ms., 1980.

[Ed.] = J. Edgar. (A) Tama. Mss., 1983/1989. (B) Erenga. Mss., 1983/1989. (C) Miisiirii. Published in: John T. Edgar. A Masalit Grammar (with notes on other lan\-gua\-ges of Darfur and Wadai). Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1989. (Section: Notes on the Miisiirii language, pp. 99-110). (D) Ibiri. Ms., 1989.

[Gn.] = X. Guinet. (A) Tama. Published in: Xavier Guinet. Esquisse d’une phonologie du sungor. // Problèmes de phonologie. Ed. by L. Bouquiaux. Paris: Société des Etudes Linguistiques et Anthropologiques de France (SELAF), 1973, pp. 73-100. (B) Sungor. Op. cit.

[Lk.] = J. Lukas. Ibiri. Published in: Johannes Lukas. Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Sprachen von Wadai. // Journal de la Société des Africanistes, 1933, pp. 25-56.

[Mm.] = H. MacMichael. (A) Tama. Published in: H. A. MacMichael. Darfur Linguistics. // Sudan No\-tes and Records, 3.3, 1920, pp. 197-216. (B) Erenga. Op. cit.

[Na.] = G. Nachtigal. (A) Sungor. Data collected in the 1860s, published in: Johannes Lukas. Die Sprache der Sungor in Wadai. (Aus Nachtigals Nachlaß). // Ausland Hochschule Mitteilungen 41-3, 1938, pp. 171-246.

[Sn.] = R. C. Stevenson. (A) Tama. Ms., some data published in: A. N. Tucker, M. Bryan. The Non-Bantu Lan\-gua\-ges of North-Eastern Africa: Linguistic Analyses. Oxford University Press, 1966. (B) Sungor. Ms., 1978. (C) Ibiri. Ms., some data published in: op. cit.

[Wb.] = A. Worbe. (A) Tama. Ms., 1957. (B) Sungor. Ms., 1956. (C) Abuu Shaarib. Ms., 1956.


1. General.

The languages that belong to the Tama group, spoken in various areas of Dar Fur and on the Chad-Sudan border, have so far been studied rather superficially; there is not a single definitive grammar or dictionary available for a single Tama language, and even the internal classification of the group remains questionable (and is quite certainly misrepresented, e.g., in current editions of the Ethnologue).

Most of the comparative research on Tama has been carried out by John T. Edgar, who has definitively established that the group is divided into at least two branches: East Tama, consisting of the very closely related Tama proper, Erenga (Birra), and Sungor (Assangori), and West Tama, consisting of the also very closely related dialectal varieties of Ibiri (Maraariit) and Abuu Shaarib. In between these two branches falls Miisiirii (Mileri), occupying a position of its own, although lexicostatistics explicitly suggests that Miisiirii is much closer to East Tama than to West Tama.

Despite the rather scattered provenance of the data, it can be seen from the assembled wordlists that, most of the time, different researchers describing the (seemingly) same idioms mostly differ over issues of phonetic and phonological notation rather than in their lexical data as such. This makes it more or less legitimate to construct wordlists for a single language where there are several default sources at once. Nevertheless, we try to maintain some consistency in the following manner:

- the default source for Tama, Erenga, Miisiirii, and Ibiri are the fieldnotes of John Edgar, due to his being the single largest authority on Tama;
- the default sources for Sungor and Abuu Shaarib has been defined as A. Worbe [Wb.], since his data (particularly on Abuu Shaarib) is the most chronologically recent and seemingly accurate;
- where, for certain entries in the wordlist, neither Edgar's nor Worbe's data are available, we have used data from either the most recent source (e. g. Doornbos' or Stevenson's field notes) or from the largest number of overlapping sources. In many cases, the same word for the same language has been attested in up to three or four different sources, which makes it as a lexical item highly reliable for lexicostatistical purposes.

All Tama languages have rather complicated morphological systems, particularly in the area of verbal paradigms, meaning that the morphological segmentation, offered in the wordlists and in the notes section, is somewhat provisional and subject to further revisions. For nouns, plural forms are given wherever they are available (especially because sometimes plural forms reflect the "pure", unmarked, nominal stem, unlike the specially marked singular forms). For verbs, the 3rd p. sg. imperfective stem is usually chosen as the default entry, or, if it is not attested, the imperative sg. form is given instead; however, all of the paradigmatic evidence presented in [Edgar 1991] is included in the notes section. It should be noted that imperfective / perfective suppletivism (rather than the more "productive" means of forming the perfective from the imperfective by means of a derivational suffix or prefix) is quite widespread among Tama basic verbs; all such cases, if properly documented, receive the status of "technical synonymy", and both stems are included in primary slots.

2. Transliteration.

Phonological systems of Tama languages are relatively simple, and most of the sources, collected together in [Edgar 1991], mark them more or less in the same fashion. Most of the changes from Edgar's transcription into the UTS system reflect standard UTS conventions:

(a) palatal affricates c, j are transliterated as ɕ, ʓ respectively; palatal nasal ny is transliterated as ɲ;

(b) long vowels, usually printed as double symbols in [Edgar 1991] (aa, ee, etc.), are transliterated as , , etc.;

(c) Edgar preserves the graphic distinction between ng and ŋ when quoting his sources. There is no reason whatsoever to think that there is anything behind that distinction other than purely graphic conventions (certainly no such thing exists as a phonological opposition between ŋg and ŋ in Tama); we re-transliterate both ng and ŋ as ŋ throughout;

(d) some of the sources mark "special" types of vibrant articulation - such as and . The former we transliterate as the retroflex flap (ɽ); the latter we leave as such, since its phonetic characteristics is unknown. In any case, both of these symbols usually just mark intervocal allophones of simple r.

(e) concerning prosody: Edgar, as well as the other researchers whose data are included in [Edgar 1991], frequently mark high tone (V́) and low tone (V̀), as well as, more rarely, contour tones (V̌, V̂). In a lot of cases, however, tonal markings are missing over particular syllables, and it is not always clear whether this signifies a mid-level tone (whose existence, according to Edgar, is explicitly suggested only in R. Stevenson's description) or an undetermined tonal characteristics. To avoid confusion, we quote all tonal marks in our data exactly the same way as they are given in the source.

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