Kru Languages
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Kru Languages

The Kru languages belong to the Niger-Congo language family and are spoken by the Kru people from the southeast of Liberia to the west of Ivory Coast.

Etymology

The term "Kru" is of unknown origin. According to Westermann (1952) it was used by Europeans to denote a number of tribes speaking related dialects. Marchese (1989) notes the fact that many of these peoples were recruited as "crew" by European seafarers; "the homonymy with crew is obvious, and is at least one source of the confusion among Europeans that there was a Kru/crew tribe".[1]

History

Andrew Dalby noted the historical importance of the Kru languages for their position at the crossroads of African-European interaction. He wrote that "Kru and associated languages were among the first to be encountered by European voyagers on what was then known as the Pepper Coast, a centre of the production and export of Guinea and melegueta pepper; a once staple African seaborne trade".[2] The Kru languages are known for some of the most complex tone systems in Africa, rivaled perhaps only by the Omotic languages.

Current status

Recent documentation has noted "Kru societies can now be found along the coast of Monrovia, Liberia to Bandama River in Côte d'Ivoire".[3] "Villages maintain their ties based on presumed common descent, reinforced by ceremonial exchanges and gifts".[3] The Kru people and their languages, although now many speak English (in Liberia) or French (in Côte d'Ivoire) as a second language, are said to be "dominant in the southwest region where the forest zone reaches the coastal lagoons".[3] The Kru people rely on the forest for farming, supplemented by hunting for their livelihood. In 2010, Kru and associated languages were spoken by 95 percent of the approximately 3.5 million people in Liberia.

Subgroups and associated languages

The Kru languages include many subgroups such as Kuwaa, Grebo, Bassa, Belle, Belleh, Kwaa and many others. According to Breitbonde, categorization of communities based on cultural distinctiveness, historical or ethnic identity, and socio-political autonomy "may have brought about the large number of distinct Kru dialects; "Although the natives were in many respects similar in type and tribe, every village was an independent state; there was also very little intercommunication".[4] Breitbonde notes the Kru people were categorized based on their cultural distinctiveness, separate historical or ethnic identities, and social and political autonomy. This is the possible reason for so many subgroups of the Kru language. As noted by Fisiak, there is very little documentation on the Kru and associated languages.[5]

Marchese's (1989) classification of Kru languages is as follows.[6] Many of these languages are dialect clusters and are sometimes considered more than a single language.

Kru  

S?m? (Siamou)

Aizi

Kuwaa

Kru  proper 
 Eastern  Kru
 Bakwe 

Bakwe

Wane

 Bété 

Kuya

Godié

Dida

Kodia (Kwadia)

 Western  Kru
 Bassa 

Bassa

Dewoin

Gbii

 Grebo 

Grebo (Jabo)

Krumen

Glio-Oubi

 Klao 

Klao

Tajuasohn

 Wee 
 Guere 

Daho-Doo

Glaro-Twabo

Sapo

Krahn

Nyabwa

Konobo

Wobe

Ethnologue adds Neyo, which may be closest to Dida or Godie.

Grammar

Kru word order is primarily subject-verb-object (SVO), but can also often be subject-object-verb (SOV).[6]

Comparative vocabulary

Sample basic vocabulary of 12 Kru languages from Marchese (1983):[7]

Language eye ear nose tooth tongue mouth blood bone tree water eat name
Tepo jíê mjã? m wt dâbl? klá tûgb nîj d?
Jrwe ?ró nã? mã? ? m w? kl klá túw n? dîd ?
Guere ?ríí? d mlâ ?n mõ? ? ?m kpâ t? ?n
Wobé ?rí d mlã? ?n mõ? nm kpâ t? n d? ?n
Niaboua ?îrî lòkû máná ?é?é m? kpá t? d? ?é?é
Bété (Daloa) ?i jûkûlî ml gléí m? drú kwâ s? n
Bété (Guibéroua) jiri júkwlí m gl m? dûrû kwá d?
Néyo j ?úkwlí mlé glè m? dòl? fé? s?ú l? jl
Godié j?dí kúlú m glè m? n drù féè s? n
Koyo j?j? ?úkiwí -- glà m? n dòlú féj? s?ú l n
Dida ?úkwlí mné gl? m? n dól? kwíjè s? ?l
Aïzi zre l?k? m?v? mr? mu ?re kra ke nr? li --

An additional sample basic vocabulary of 21 Kru languages from Marchese (1983):[7]

Language eye ear nose tooth tongue mouth blood bone water eat name
Aïzi zre l?k? m?v? mr? mu ?re kra nr? li
Vata ?êflú mênê glà me n d?l?
Dida ?úkwlí mné gl? m? n dòl? kwíjè ?l
Koyo jíj? ?úkwlí n glà m? n dòlú féj? l n
Godié kúlú m glè m? n d?ù féè n
Néyo j ?úkwlí mlé glè m? dòl? fé? l? jl
Bété (Guibéroua) ji?i júkwlí m glâ m? dû?û kwá l? nn
Bété (Daloa) ?i jûkûlî ml gléí m? d?ú kwâ nn
Niaboua lòkû mná ?éné ?w m? kpá d? ?éné
Wobé ?rí d mlã? ?n m ?w nm kpâ n d? ?n
Guéré ?ríí? d mlâ ?n mõ? ? ?m kpâ ?n
Konobo jid? nao mlã m? daluo kla di ?i
Oubi j?r? n m?ã? ?u dòùl? kala d?d ?ír?
Bakwe ?ákúlú m gl m m tù?ú k n? nr?
Tépo jíê mjã? m dâbl? klá nîj d?
Grebo nóá méá m ?wún ?én klã? n ?éné
Klao nk mnã? m w ?n kpã? n d? ?n
Bassa ?élé máná m? w n?m? kpá dunu ?i n?
Dewoin gire málã? m?lã? w ?imo gba z? l
Kuwaa s n?i mw? w tòyò kwa nímí l
S?m? ?a tasj? mar ?en d? kpar n? di j?

Numerals

Comparison of numerals in individual languages:[8]

Classification Language 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Kuwaa Kuwaa (Belleh) dee sr tãã? ?ìjh? wày wrf?l (5 + 1) k?rl?rr (5 + 2) kwatãã? (5 + 3) kyyh? (5 + 4) kowaa
Seme Seme (Siamou) (1) by n? tyá?r y?r kwl kpã?â kprn? kl
Seme Seme (Siamou) (2) dyu15 n?15 ty?r15 yur3 kwl3 k?pa4a34 kyi4?34 k?pr?434 kal3 fu1
Eastern, Bakwe Bakwé ?ô: s: t: m: b? : (5 + 1) :s (5 + 2) :t (5 + 3) :m (5 + 4) p
Eastern, Bakwe Wané do³ / ?o³ s?² ta³ ?h? ?² klo:²?(5 + 1) ?² s?² (5 + 2) ?² ta³ (5 + 3) ?² ?h? (5 + 4) ?² bu? or bu?
Eastern, Bete Daloa Bété ?l s mwana ?b ?b?pl? (5 + 1) ?bis (5 + 2) bwata (5 + 3) ?bim?wana (5 + 4) k?ba
Eastern, Bete Guiberoua Bété ?l s mwana ?b ?b?pl? (5 + 1) ?bis (5 + 2) bwata (5 + 3) ?bim?wana (5 + 4) k?ba
Eastern, Bete Godié ?l s? t m?n? ?b ?bóplóo (5 + 1) ?b?s (5 + 2) ?bàát? (5 + 3) v?n? k?bá
Eastern, Bete, Eastern Gagnoa Bété s t m?n m.bú bé.póó (5 + 1) b?.s (5 + 2) b?.t? (5 + 3) f?.n k?.b
Eastern, Bete, Eastern Guébie Bété b?l?².³ so? ta³¹ m?na¹.³¹ mbe² mbeb?l?².².³ (5 + 1) mboso³.? (5 + 2) mbata³.³¹ (5 + 3) mb?f?na³.¹.³¹ (5 + 4) kba².³
Eastern, Bete, Eastern Kouya ?lò s t? mnà bu beli?lò (5 + 1) bes (5 + 2) bet? (5 + 3) bomnà (5 + 4) kubua
Eastern, Dida Yocoboué Dida bóló mw?s mw?tá mw?ná ?b ?bfr? (5 + 1) ?ms (5 + 2) ?m?áta (5 + 3) ?mvwaná kóba
Eastern, Dida Neyo s t mn? b bfl (5 + 1) bás (5 + 2) bát? (5 + 3) fn? (5 + 4) k?bá
Eastern, Kwadia Kodia b?l?³² / l?³² s?:² ta:² m?na?³ b?³ b?w?l?³³³ (5 + 1) b?:?³s?³ (5 + 2) ba:?³ta³ (5 + 3) b?m?na³?³ (5 + 4) kba³³
Western, Bassa Bassa ?ò, dyúá?ò s h?iny? hm?m? mnìn-?ò (5 + 1) mnìn-s (5 + 2) mnìn-tã (5 + 3) mnìn-h?iny? (5 + 4) ?a?a-bùè
Western, Bassa Dewoin (Dewoi) b? s ta h?iny? hm?m? me?e-b? (5 + 1) me?e-s (5 + 2) me?e-ta (5 + 3) me?e-h?iny? (5 + 4)
Western, Bassa Gbasei (Gbii) (1) d: / ká? s y m m?md (5 + 1) m?ms (5 + 2) m?mtã? (5 + 3) m?m?y (5 + 4) bá?áp?ùwe
Western, Bassa Gbii (Gbi-Dowlu) (2) dòò, dyúá?ò s hny? hm?m? mn?n-?ò (5 + 1) mn?n-s (5 + 2) mn?n-t (5 + 3) mn?n-hny? (5 + 4) ?a?abùè
Western, Grebo, Glio-Oubi Glio-Oubi d? hw tã? h b h?dò (5 + 1) hs (5 + 2) m?ra (5 + 3) m (5 + 4) pue
Western, Grebo, Ivorian Pye (Piè) Krumen h? t? h h hj?r? [hj] ('five plus one') hj?h? ('five plus two') hj?t? ('five plus three') hj?h ('five plus four')
Western, Grebo, Ivorian Tepo Krumen (1) h t? h h huõ?n (5 + 1) np?t? (lit: 'not/be/three') np?h, yèhyèh (2 x 4) s?lédò (lit: 'remains /there/one')
Western, Grebo, Ivorian Tepo Krumen (2) ?n t? hn ùm ùmndô (5 + 1) ùmnn (5 + 2) blnbìn ùm?yánd?
Western, Grebo, Liberian Central Grebo (Barrobo) dòo n taan hn wùun wùnd? (5 + 1) jetan (4 + 3) ? jiinhn (4 + 4) ? s?ndò (lit: 'remain one' before 10)
Western, Grebo, Liberian Northern Grebo do s h m?m mmdo (5 + 1) nyi?tã (4 + 3) nny (4 + 4) si?do (lit: 'remain one' before 10)
Western, Klao Klao sn tan nyì mùnédo (5 + 1) mùnésn (5 + 2) mùné?tan (5 + 3) sopádo (10 - 1) puè
Western, Klao Tajuasohn doe sunn nn = ? tan hin hoom ?hon doe (5 + 1) ?hon sunn (5 + 2) hinin (4 + 4) si?rdoe (lit: 'remains one') punn
Western, Wee, Guere-Krahn Western Krahn tòò sn ta?a?n nyì m?m? mo? (5 + 1) msn (5 + 2) m?ta?a (5 + 3) mnyì (5 + 4) pùèè
Western, Wee, Guere-Krahn Sapo du? / tòò s?n tan nyì? m?m? ml? (5 + 1) ms?n (5 + 2) mtan (5 + 3) mnyi? (5 + 4) pùè
Western, Wee, Nyabwa Nyabwa (Nyaboa) do4 s2 tã3 ?i?33 mu4u1 m?4?1lo4 (5 + 1) m?4?1s2 (5 + 2) m?4?1tã3 (5 + 4) m?4?1?i?33 (5 + 5) bue44
Western, Wee, Wobe Northern Wè (Wobe) too3 / due1 sn2 / s?n2 taan3 nyi?43 mm41 m?41o3 (5 + 1) m?41s?n2 (5 + 2) m?41na3 (5 + 3) m?41nyi?3 (5 + 4) puue3

Reconstruction

Proto-Kru
Reconstruction ofKru languages

According to Marchese Zogbo (2012), Proto-Kru had:[9]

  • phonemic nasalized vowels
  • four level tones
  • *CVCV-(C)V and probably *CVV syllable structure. *CCV syllables, and possibly also *CVV syllables, are derived from *CVCV roots.
  • SVO word order, but with much OV typology
  • suffixing morphology
  • perfective and imperfective aspects

Proto-Kru consonants (Marchese Zogbo 2012):

p t k kp
b d g gb
?
m n ? (?)
s
l w

Derived consonants:

  • /?/ is likely derived via palatalization (*g > ?), e.g. *gie > ?ie.
  • *c, *?, *k?, *g?, * are derived from alveolar or velar consonants preceding high back or high front vowels.
  • /?/ is likely derived from *l.

Proto-Kru vowels (Marchese Zogbo 2012):

? ?
e o
? ?
a


There is a clear bipartite division between Western and Eastern Kru marked by phonological and lexical distinctions. Some isoglosses between Western Kru and Eastern Kru:

Gloss Proto-Western Kru Proto-Eastern Kru
tree *tu *su
dog *gbe *gw?
fire *n? *kosu
tooth *?n? *gle

References

  1. ^ Breitbonde, L. B. (1991). "City, Countryside, and Kru Ethnicity". Africa. 61 (2): 186-201. doi:10.2307/1160614. JSTOR 1160614.
  2. ^ Dalby, Andrew (1998). Dictionary of Languages. New York: Columbia UP.
  3. ^ a b c Bahl, Taru; Syed, M. H., eds. (2003). Encyclopaedia of Muslim World. New Delhi: Ammol Publications. pp. 24-25.
  4. ^ McEvoy, Frederick (1997). "Understanding Ethnic Realities among the Grebo and Kru People of West Africa". Africa. 47 (1): 62. doi:10.2307/1159195.
  5. ^ Fisiak, Jacek (1984). Historical Syntax. New York: Mouton.
  6. ^ a b Marchese, Lynell. 1989. Kru. In Bendor-Samuel, John (ed.), The Niger-Congo Languages: A Classification and Description of Africa's Largest Language Family, 119-139. Lanham MD, New York & London: Lanham: University Press of America.
  7. ^ a b Marchese, Lynell. 1983. Atlas linguistique Kru: nouvelle edition. Abidjan: Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique (ACCT).
  8. ^ Chan, Eugene (2019). "The Niger-Congo Language Phylum". Numeral Systems of the World's Languages.
  9. ^ Marchese Zogbo, Lynell. 2012. Kru revisited, Kru revealed. Paper presented at the International Congress "Towards Proto-Niger-Congo: Comparison and Reconstruction," Paris, 18-21 September. (Abstract)
  • Westerman, Diedrich Hermann (1952) Languages of West Africa (Part II). London/New York/Toronto: Oxford University Press.

External links


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