Taylor Cassiani

2022 McNair Scholar, Taylor Cassiani

University of New Hampshire
McNair Scholar, 2022
Major: Linguistics & Italian
Mentor: Dr. Rachel Burdin
Research Title: Language Contact Between the Vocalic Inventories of Hausa and Ekhwa

Language contact is a topic that has been researched regarding European languages, but of course not all languages are European. Because of this fact, this research is examining the cross-linguistic influence in the vowels of people who speak both Hausa and Ekhwa. Hausa, which is in the Afro-Asiatic language family, is considered a lingua franca, meaning it is used as a common language for people of Nigeria and Northern Niger to communicate. The Niger-Congo language, Ekhwa, is considered to be an ethnic language, meaning it is more spoken in the home or community than in formal situations. This research project has been underway for a couple of months now, with Dr. Rachel Burdin, myself, and Emmanuel Bawa, who is a prior linguistics graduate student from the University of New Hampshire that conducted research on other African languages, including Ekhwa which is his native language. Prior to my joining, Dr. Burdin and Bawa collected recordings of participants who spoke both Hausa and Ekhwa. During this opportunity, Bawa and I will be analyzing the data collected by plotting the vowels and comparing them with each other. With the research on European languages, it is expected that this data should show Hausa vowels being affected by Ekhwa, as it was the second language that was learned by all of the participants who were interviewed. Of course, the extent that these vowels are affected will most likely be determined by how often the participant speaks Hausa. This is assuming that language contact between African languages is affected in the same way as European languages. By delving into the phonetic inventories of these languages, hopefully we will be able to understand how this contact affects them both and develop theories of how African languages are affected.

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