DOGON LANGUAGES

 

1. General Introduction

 

2. Wordlists

 

3. Video and images

 

INTRODUCTION

The languages spoken on the Dogon Plateau and adjacent areas are generally known to outsiders as ‘Dogon’, but this term is not used by individual groups. For a long time, research on the Dogon was dominated by the work of Marcel Griaule and his successors, which focused on a very specific group, the Dogon of Sangha. Bertho published short comparative wordlists of some Dogon lects but these made little impression. Calame-Griaule (1956) published a dialect map of Dogon, the relationship between the named communities and the T¨r¨-S¨¨ represented in her dictionary remained unclear in the absence of data. Until recently, Dogon was treated in reference books as if it were a single language (e.g. Bendor-Samuel et al. 1989), but Hochstetler et al. (2004) estimated there are no less than 17 languages under the Dogon rubric and that the family is highly internally divided.

 

The classification of the Dogon languages is a matter of considerable dispute. They have always been considered part of Niger-Congo, but their place in that family is difficult to determine. Hochstetler et al. (2004) review the various theories that have been advanced, which are essentially either Gur, Mande or an independent branch. Conventional wisdom now treat Dogon as its own branch of Niger-Congo (Williamson & Blench 2000).

 

Another major question is the place of Dogon within Niger-Congo. Dogon is both lexically and structurally very different from most other families. It lacks the noun-classes usually regarded as typical of Niger-Congo and has a word order (SOV) that resembles Mande and Ịjọ, but not the other branches. The system of verbal inflections, resembling French is quite unlike any surrounding languages. As a consequence, the ancestor of Dogon is likely to have diverged very early, although the present-day languages probably reflect an origin some 3-4000 years ago. Dogon languages are territorially coherent, suggesting that, despite local migration histories, the Dogon have been in this area of Mali from their origin.

 

One language in the Dogon-speaking area is apparently not Dogon but which is difficult to classify, Baŋgi me. This language contains some Niger-Congo roots but is lexically very remote from all other languages in West Africa. It is presumably the last remaining representative of the languages spoken prior to the expansion of the Dogon proper.

 

In terms of data collection, the surveys in February and March 2005 focused strongly on;

 

a)      collecting basic lexical data on so far undescribed varieties of Dogon (and other languages of the Dogon Plateau)

b)      collecting terminology of cultural and historical significance, such names of crops, domestic animals, fauna and flora and blacksmithing terms

 

The results from historical linguistics are still being analysed, but preliminary findings suggest some rather surpising results. For example, speakers of the proto-Dogon language were already farmers, growing sorghum, millet and fonio, keping cattle but not sheep and goats. They did not use hoes, but planting sticks, and were experienced arboriculturalists. Further analysis will be reported here as it becoems available.

Data collected in 2005 field surveys

Linguistic materials were collected on and preliminary documents can be downloaded here;

 

 

Four languages, Ana, Bunoge, Tebul Ure and Walo, are reported here for the first time. A previously undocumented sign language was discovered among the Tebul people and a video record of sample sentences and narratives in sign language, Tebul Ure and French was made.

An introduction to the status of endangered languages was published in Ogmios, for April 2005. A PDF version is available at;

Ogmios article Dogon 2005

 

Video and images

 

1. Photos

 

Instrument

Download

Shaken gourd

Shaken gourd

Whistle

Whistle

Cylindrical drum

Cylindrical drum

Small gourd drum

Small gourd drum

Log gongs

Log gongs

Kettle-drums

Kettle-drums

Slit bell

Slit bell

Slide show

Slide show

 

 

 

 

2. Videos

 

 

 

References

 

Bendor-Samuel, J., E. J. Olsen, and A. R. White, 1989. Dogon. In: Bendor-Samuel, J. (ed). The Niger-Congo Languages—a classification and description of Africa’s largest language family. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. 169–177.

Bertho, J. 1953. La place des dialectes dogon de la falaise de Bandiagara parmi les autres groupes linguistiques de la zone soudanaise. Bulletin de lIFAN 15: 405-41.

Calame-Griaule, G. 1956. Les dialectes Dogon. Africa, 26(1):62–72.

Hochstetler, J. Lee, Durieux, J.A. & E.I.K. Durieux-Boon 2004. Sociolinguistic Survey of the Dogon Language Area. SIL International. Available at: http://www.sil.org/silesr/2004/silesr2004-004.pdf

Williamson, Kay & R.M. Blench 2000. Niger-Congo. In: African languages: an introduction. B. Heine & D. Nurse eds. 11-42. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.