This dissertation will describe and analyze undocumented aspects of the grammar of Anii, a Kwa language with approximately 46,000 speakers, spoken along the border of Togo and Benin, West Africa. Original data will be collected from speakers of the Bassila dialect of Anii in order to answer outstanding descriptive and theoretical questions that have arisen from very limited previous research.

Anii is classified as a Kwa language, specifically a member of a small group of languages called Ghana-Togo Mountain (GTM) languages, and has only one possible close relative. Thus, the study of Anii will shed light on a very under-studied branch of the Kwa family. Areas of focus for this project include a description of the tonal system of Anii, investigation of sound patterns, especially regarding vowels, a description of clausal syntax, and work on the semantics of the Anii verbal system.

Since Anii is virtually undescribed, the data to be gathered will contribute to empirical knowledge of the world's languages and allow for the testing of theories that were developed using data from more well-known languages. In addition, the project will support grassroots literacy efforts in the Anii language to help many illiterate adults learn to read for the first time and give many children easier access to education (through envisioned Anii to French transition programs in local schools). An important step for these literacy programs is developing an orthography that includes tone, and the tonal analysis to be undertaken for this dissertation research is key to the success of this endeavor. This project will also aid in the preservation of the Anii language and culture and encourage the Anii people to have pride in their linguistic heritage through collecting texts for the staff of a new Anii-language magazine.

Project Report

The goal of this project was to research the structure of Anii, a language that had never before been scientifically studied in depth. Anii is spoken in Togo and Benin, West Africa, by approximately 50,000 people, and is very different in grammar and vocabulary from all the languages spoken around it. The specific focus of this project was to investige how verbs work in Anii, both how they are pronounced (specifically, the tone patterns in verb phrases) and how they can be marked for different types of meaning (specifically, the temporal and aspectual semantics of verbal morphology). One interesting aspect of Anii that this project has documented is the fact that consonants at the ends of Anii verb stems sometimes behave like other consonants, but in certain cases act more like vowels with regard to how they bear tone. Another aspect of the grammar of Anii that has been investigated in this project is the meaning of the far-past marker, b???a?, which often seems like a past tense, but has been shown to not have the same function as past tenses in European languages. It may be similar to past markers found in other languages around the world (African and others), but even if this is the case, this project is one of the first in-depth semantic analyses of this type of marker. Many other aspects of the function of tone and the way Anii expresses the relative timing of events have also been documented. In general, the data collected in this project is unique in the sense that it provides extensive information about the structure of Anii that was not previously known to science. Additionally, the tonal data collected was instrumental in finalizing the orthography rules that have allowed the Anii language to be written down consistently for the first time. The development of this new orthography has supported the efforts of literacy development workers to expand literacy and education among the Anii-speaking people.

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Ohio State University
United States
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