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Plural formation in Nubi and Arabic: A comparative study and a word-based approach

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Nubi is an Arabic-related Creole spoken in Uganda and Kenya. It evolved during the 19th century from a pidginized Arabic used among enslaved soldiers of the Egyptian army occupying Sudan. Untypically for a creolized language, Nubi appears to be more complex than its lexifier Egyptian/Sudanese Arabic (E/SA) as far as plural formation is concerned, as it includes opaque word classes not present in the lexifier. The comparison is carried out from a word-based morphological perspective and it is formalized according to the Paradigm Function Morphology (PFM) framework. In E/SA, plural formation proceeds through infixation (“broken” or “internal” plurals) or suffixation. In Nubi, plural formation exclusively proceeds through suffixation involving seven segmental suffixes plus final stress as a suprasegmental suffix. The argument of the paper is that the demise of internal plurals in Nubi is due to the loss of awareness of Arabic consonantal roots and templates following pidginization, i.e. unguided second language acquisition (SLA) by adults. Moreover, what suffix attaches to what stem cannot be predicted in Nubi owing to the absence of templatic structure and of gender. Theoretical consequences of this state of affairs are then explored. It is argued that it strongly supports a word-based view of morphology in which paradigms are primary and roots, stems and templates are abstracted from paradigms.

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