Diachrony and typology in the history of Cree (Algonquian, Algic)

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Cree and most of the other Algonquian languages show a number of typological unusual and inconsistent features. In this paper it is attempted to make sense of those, by applying internal reconstruction. The features discussed include the structural parallels between NP structure and VP structure, the position of morphological elements with regard to the verbal stem, and the fact that nominal modifiers such as adpositions and demonstratives can appear both before and after the noun. Some of these features are compared to the two Algic languages of California, distantly related to Algonquian, and processes of change in Algonquian are reconstructed, among those a shift from suffixing to prefixing. It is concluded that some of the structural features in Algonquian show similarities with Kutenai and Salish, unrelated languages of the Pacific west coast, and a possible common origin is discussed. Archaeological data also suggest a connection between these groups, and an origin of Algic and Algonquian in the west. Speculations are formulated with regards to the reasons for the reconstructed changes, including possible contacts with Athabaskans migration from the north to the south.


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