Studies in African Linguistics
Atlantic languages -- Word order, Niger-Congo languages, Kissi language, Language variation, Languages in contact
As the largest language phylum in the world and the most geographically widespread (Williamson & Blench 2000), Niger-Congo understandably exhibits some variation at all grammatical levels. Basic word order stands as no exception to this generalization, and there have been partisans for both an SOY and an SVO reconstructed word order. Gensler 1994 attempts to reconcile the two by claiming that neither proposal is correct; he suggests that both SOY and SVO are derived from Proto-Niger-Congo *S-AUX-O-V-Other. Because of the pattern's "quirkiness" (being found virtually nowhere else in the world) and because it is so widely attested in geographically widely separated Niger-Congo languages, the pattern should be reconstructed for all of Niger-Congo. One crucial piece of evidence for this claim comes from the Southern Atlantic language Kisi. This paper explores Kisi' s facts in further detail to show how central the structure is to the language. It then expands the investigation to other languages of Atlantic, finding that the pattern is much more widely attested than was previously realized, albeit in an attenuated form. The paper concludes by discussing the significance of the Atlantic facts to Niger-Congo in general.
Childs, George Tucker (2005). The S-AUX-OV-other syntagm in Atlantic. Studies in African linguistics, 34(1), 1-42.