The Northwest Kainji languages



Lela (as Dakarkari) is often used as a cover-term for the peoples of the region between Rijau and Donko, in reference books such as Gunn and Conant (1960) and Wente-Lukas (1985). This is now generally rejected, and the term Lela should be applied only to the group formerly called Dakarkari and living around Zuru. It is here proposed to adopt the term Northwest Kainji to cover this group, which consists of the cLela, Hun-Saare, Kag cluster and Wurə-Gwamhyə-Mba languages. The group is unified by a striking morphological feature, the reduction of nominal prefixes to single consonants.


The Northwest group is easily defined phonologically by a single innovation; the development of consonantal prefixes with only a transitional central vowel joining them to the stem. These are quite distinctive, not only within West Kainji, but within Benue-Congo as a whole. A surprising feature of the group is that Lela is the most remote member. Many lexical items shared by the other three languages are different in Lela. Since Lela falls between Main and Wurə-Gwamhyə-Mba geographically, it must have expanded subsequently, separating the two groups. Figure 1 gives a tentative internal classification of the Lela group; evidence for the classification is given in the appendix.


Figure 1. The Northwest Kainji languages












WGM cluster



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