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Pluralization, feminization and pitch accent in Djibouti Somali nouns

  • Nicola Lampitelli EMAIL logo


The goal of this paper is to present newly collected data of Djibouti Somali and show how it offers insight into the architecture of nouns. Djibouti Somali, like Standard Somali, is characterized by the presence of inflectional classes. Building on my own fieldwork material, I discuss both the empirical statements and the theoretical implications that emerge from the observation of three aspects of noun inflection: (1) pluralization strategies, (2) the position of pitch accent with respect to gender and (3) the opposition between Absolutive and Nominative case. In particular, the fact that Djibouti Somali uses mainly two suffixes to pluralize nouns, leads us to the hypothesis that the inflectional system of this variety consists of only two inflectional types. Basic non-derived nouns belong to what I call type A, whereas suffixed nouns belong to type B. This dichotomy is confirmed by the behavior of pitch accent with respect to both gender and syntactic case. Finally, I propose that the distinction between type A and type B can be accounted for, in the context of a formal analysis, by postulating the existence of a contrast between null vs. overt nominalizer.

Funding statement: This work benefited from travel funds granted by the research Lab Laboratoire de Linguistique Formelle (UMR 7110 Université Paris Diderot and CNRS).


I wish to thank those former colleagues who helped me prepare my fieldwork activity in Djibouti in 2012. I am also grateful to my consultants and especially to Ragueh, Moubarak, Houssein and Abdirachid for sharing their beautiful language with me. Finally, I thank two anonymous Journal of African Languages and Linguistics referees for valuable comments and remarks. All remaining errors are, of course, my own responsibility.


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Appendix A: Noun entries

# singulargenclassplural (gen)gloss
1 aabbéM6aabbayáal (F)father
2 ábtiM2abtiyó (F), abtiyáal (F)maternal uncle
3 adéerM2adeerró (F)paternal uncle
4 áfM4afáf (M), afyáal (F)tongue
5 albáabM2albaabyó (F), albaabbó (F)door
6 áqalM2aqalló (F)home
7 ardéyM5ardeý (F), ardeyáal (F)(male) student
8 áwrM5aẃr (F) awryáal (F), awrár (M)camel
9 baabúurM2baabuurró (F), baabuuryáal (F)truck
10 báhalM2bahalló (F), bahalyáal (F), bahalloóyin (Ppl)wild animal
11 bálliM2balliyó (F)small lake
12 baréM6barayáal (F)teacher
13 básM4basás (M)bus
14 béerM2beeryó (F) beeryáal (F)liver
15 belóF7beloóyin (M)tribe
16 bílM4bilál, biló (M), bilyáal (F), bilóyin (M)month
17 búdM4budád (M), budyáal (F)stick
18 cadáyM5cadaý (F), cadayó (F), cadayáal (F)brush
19 cambéM6cambayáal (F), cambóyin (M)mango
20 cáshiM2cashiyó (F)illness, desease
21 cawóF7cawoóyin (M)evening
22 ciyáarM2ciyaarró (M)sport
23 dáabM4daabáb (M)handle
24 daábF1unknownanimal diarrhea
25 daárF1daaró (M)stone house
26 dáasM4daasás (M), daasyáal (F)store
27 dábM4dabáb (M)fire
28 dabóF7daboóyin (M)tail
29 dálM4dalál (M)country
30 daríiqM2dariiqyó, dariiqó (F), dariiqyáal (M), dariiqoóyin (Ppl)road
31 dawóF7dawoóyin (M)medicine, drug
32 dayuurádF1dayuuradó (M)airplane
33 dhágaxM2dhagaxyó (F), dhagaxyáal (F), dhagaxán (F)stone
34 dhégF1dhegó (M), dhegág (M)ear
35 dhínacM2dhinacyó (F), dhinacyáal (F)side, direction
36 dhúlM4dhulál (M)land, earth
37 díbiM5dibí (F), dibiyó (F), dibiyáal (F)bull
38 doólliM2doolliyó (F), doolliyáal (F)mouse
39 dúbM4dubáb (M)skin
40 dúgsiM2dugsiyó (F), dugsiyáal (F)school
41 dukáanM2dukaannó, -nyó, -mó (F), dukaanyáal (F)shop
42 duráyM2durayó (F), durayáal (F)cold, flu
43 durbáanM2durbaannó, durbaanyó (F)drum
44 éyM5eý (F), eyó (F), ey(y)áal (F)dog
45 fílinM2filmó (F)movie
46 fursádF1fursadó (M)chance
47 gaáriM2gaariyó (F), gaariyáal (F)car
48 gabádhF1gabdhó (M), gabdhyáal (F)girl
49 gabáyM2gabayó (F), gaba(y)yáal (F)poem
50 gacánF1gacmó (M)hand
51 galábF1galbó (M), galabó (M) galabyáal (F)afternoon
52 gárM4garár (M), garó (M)beard
53 géedM1/3geedó (M)tree, plant
54 géesM4geesás (M), geesó (M), geesyáal (F), geesoóyin (Ppl)horn
55 góol[26]M4goolál (M)fat male camel
56 goólF1gooló (M)lioness
57 górgorM2gorgorró, gorgoryó (F), gorgoryáal (F)vulture
58 goroyóF7goroyoóyin (M), goroyáal (F)ostrich
59 gúriM1guriyó (M), guriyáal (F)house
60 háan[27]M4haamó (M)throat
61 haánF1haamó (M), haanyáal (F)water vessel
62 hálF1haló (M), halál (M), halalyáal (Ppl)female camel
63 heésF1heesó (M), heesás (F?), heesoóyin (Ppl)song
64 hílibM3hil(i)bó (M), hilibyó (F), hilibyáal (F)meat
65 hooyóF7hooyoóyin (M), hooyáal (F)mother
66 hudhéel[28]M2hudheelló (F), hudheelyáal (F)hotel
67 ílF1iló (M), indhó (M), ilál (M), indhoóyin (Ppl)eye
68 íligM3ilkó (M), iligyáal (F), ilkoóyin (Ppl)tooth
69 ínanM2inammó (F), inanyáal (F), inammayáal (Ppl)boy
70 inán[29]F1unknowngirl
71 jaamacádF1jaamacadó (M)university
72 jamhuuriyádF1jamhuuriyadó (M)republic
73 jamciyádF1jamciyadó (M)league, union
74 jílibM3jilbó (M), jilbyó (F?)knee
75 jínniM2jinniyó (F), jinní (F), jinniyáal (F)Jinn
76 kaalmóF7kaalmoóyin (M)help
77 kábF1kabó (M), kabáb (M)shoe
78 kallúun[30]M2kallumó, kallunó (F), kallunyáal (F)fish (coll.)
79 khudrád[31]F1khudradó (M), khudradyáal (F)fruit (coll.)
80 kóobM4koobáb (M), koobyáal (F), kooboóyin (M)cup
81 kuráyM2kurayó (F), kuray(y)áal (F)lad, boy
82 kúrsiM2kursiyó (F), kursiyáal (F), kuraasí, kuraás (F), kuraasoóyin (M)chair
83 libáaxM2libaaxyó (F), libaaxyáal (F), libaáx (F)lyon
84 lúgF1lugó (M), lugág (M)foot
85 maalínF/M1/2maalimmó (F), maalmyáal (F), maal(i)mó (M), maalinyó (F?)day
86 macállin[32]M2macallimmó (F), macallimyáal (F), macallinyó (F)teacher
87 mádaxM2/5madaxyó (F), madaxyáal (F), madáx (F)head
88 magaalóF7magaaloóyin (M), magaaloyáal (F)city
89 mágacM2magacyó (F), magacyáal (F), magacoóyin (M)noun, name
90 makhaayádF1makhaayadó (M), makhaayadyáal (F)restaurant
91 maqaalínF1maqaalimó (M)fishing hook
92 marqaátiM2marqaatiyó (F), marqaatiyáal (F)witness
93 masaájidM2masaajidyó (F), masaajiddó (F)mosque
94 míisM3miisás, miisó (M), miisyáal (F), miisasyáal (Ppl)table
95 mindíF1mindiyó (M), mindiyáal (F)knife
96 móosM4moosás (M)banana
97 naágF1naagó (M), naagayáal (Ppl)woman
98 néefM4neefáf (M), neefyáal (F)pet
99 neéfF1neefó (F)breath
100 nínM4nimán (M), nimó (M), nimyáal (F)man
101 óonM2unknownthirst
102 oón[33]F1unknownfood
103 ordinatéerM2ordinateerró (F), ordinateeryó (F)computer
104 órgiM2orgiyó (F), orgiyáal (F), orgí (F)male goat
105 qáan[34]M2qaanyáal (F)young camel(s)
106 qaánF1qaamó, qaanó (M)debt
107 qálinM2qalimmó, qalinnó (F), qalimyáal, qalinyáal (F)pen
108 qasacád[35]F1qasacadó (M)can, box
109 qáybF1qaybó (M), qaybyó (F?), qaybyáal (F), qayboóyin (Ppl)part, share
110 qódobM3qod(o)bó (M), qodobyó (F), qodobyáal (F)article
111 qólM4qolál (M), qolyáal (F)room
112 qóysM4qoysás (M), qoysyáal (F), qoysyó (F?)family
113 qúracM2quracyó (F), quracyáal (F)acacia
114 ráhM2rahyó, rahyáal (F), raháh, rahó (M)frog
115 ríF1riyó (M)female goat
116 róobM4roobáb (M)rain
117 roótiM2rootiyáal (F)bread
118 sáabM4saabáb (M), saabó (M)flask
119 sánadM2sanaddó (F), sanadyáal (F)year
120 saaxíib[36]M2saaxiibyó, saaxiibbó (F), saaxiibyáal (F)friend
121 sabábF1sababó (M), sababyó (F?)cause, excuse
122 sácM2sacyó (F), sacyáal (F)cow
123 sálliM2salliyó (F), salliyáal (F)prayer mat
124 sámbabM2sambabbó, sambabyó (F), sambabyáal (F)lung
125 sánM4sanán (M), sanyó (F), sanyáal (F)nose
126 shabéelM2shabeelló, shabeelyó (F), shabeelyáal (F), shabeellayáal (Ppl)leopard
127 shaqóF7shaqoóyin (M), shaqayáal (F)work
128 sheekóF7sheekoóyin (M), sheekayáal (F), sheeka-sheekó (reduplicated pl.)tale, story
129 shímbirM2shimbirró (M), shimbiryáal (F)bird
130 soomaáliM5soomaalí (F), soomaaliyáal (F)Somali
131 súbaxM2subax(y)ó (F), subaxyáal (F)morning
132 suldáanM2suldaannó (F)sultan
133 súuqM2suqyó (F), suuqyáal (F), suuqáq (M)market
134 tágsiM2tagsiyó (F), tagsiyáal (F), takaasí (F)taxi cab
135 terráin[37]M2terranyó, -nnó (F), terranyáal (F)sport field
136 toddobáadM2toddobaadyó, -ddó (F), toddobaadyáal (F)week
137 tukéM6tukayáal (F)crow, raven
138 ugáx[38]F1ugaxyó (F), ugaxyáal (F)egg
139 wáddanM2waddannó, waddammó (F)country, state
140 waddóF7waddoóyin (M)road
141 waláalM2walaalyó, -lló (F), walaalyáal (F), walaaloóyin (Ppl)brother
142 wánM4wanán (M)male sheep
143 wárM4warár (M)news
144 waraabé[39]M6waraabayáal (F), waraaboóyin (M)hyena
145 waranlé[40]M6waranlayáal (F), waranloóyin (M)spearman
146 warqádF1warqadó (M)paper
147 wáxM2waxyaálo, -yaábo (M); waxyó, waxyáal (F)thing
148 waxárF1waxaró (M)kid
149 wíilM4wiilál (M), wiilyó (F), wiilyáal (F)boy
150 xádhigM3xadhkó (M), xadhigyó (F), xadhkoóyin (Ppl)rope
Published Online: 2017-5-3
Published in Print: 2017-5-24

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