Felix K. Ameka, James Essegbey
July 14, 2017
The genetic unity and lineage of a group of fifteen languages spoken in the mountains of the Ghana-Togo border with an outlier across the Togo-Benin border have been debated for over a century. Some have concluded that they are not a genetic group. Instead they are a geographical and socio-cultural grouping (see Ian Maddieson 1998, Collapsing vowel harmony and doubly-articulated fricatives: Two myths about the phonology of Avatime. In Ian Maddieson & Thomas J. Hinnebusch (eds.), Language history and linguistic description in Africa , 155–166. Trenton: Africa World Press) or a typological grouping masquerading as a genetic unit (Roger Blench 2009, Do the Ghana-Togo mountain languages constitute a genetic group? Journal of West African Languages 36(1/2). 19–36). This paper investigates the latter claim. We argue that even though the languages share some typological features, there is enormous diversity among the languages such that they do not constitute a typological grouping by themselves. We examine four phonological and twelve morpho-syntactic features to show the convergence and divergence among the languages. We argue that while some of the features are inherited from higher level proto languages e.g. the noun class systems, others are contact-induced and yet others in their specificities could be seen as arising due to internal parallel development in the individual languages.