Archaeological inspiration and historical inference

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This paper highlights potential historical inferences one can draw about economiclifestyle from lexical patterns of the Edoid speaking Emai people. Theselected inferences derive from the complementary use of morphology in thecoding of basic categories of Emai foodstuffs. While plant and animal domainseach utilize endocentric and exocentric compounds as well as derivationalmorphology, inflectional morphology is not uniformly engaged across semanticdomains. In particular, noun class prefix pairs, reflecting a reduced gender system,obligatorily encode grammatical number on basic level terms only in theanimal domain. Given that the Emai inhabit the forest zone fringe and practiceagriculture in a geographic area inhospitable to herd animals of the type recognizedby inflectional marking, this coding asymmetry is suggestive of an earlierpastoral lifestyle. Accordingly, any proposal for an Emai and, by extension, anEdoid homeland at the rainforest edge, as proposed in Elugbe (1979), wouldbe too restrictive. It is therefore argued that Edoid wide lexical investigations,particularly of lexemes coding animals and plants, ought to pursue the possibilityof a more northerly homeland, one that might extend north of the Niger-Benue confluence. Results have the potential to enhance understanding of notonly historical evolution within the Edoid group but also population interactionacross the Sahelo-Sudanic landscape.


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