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Early Saramaccan Syllable Structure: An Analysis of Complex Onsets from Schumann’s 1778 Manuscript

Aceto, Michael. 1996. Early Saramaccan syllable structure: An analysis of complex onsets from Schumann’s 1778 manuscript. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 11: 23- 44.

Abstract: This paper presents a diachronic analysis of Saramaccan syllable structure. It examines data from Schumann’s 1778 manuscript, and demonstrates that early Saramaccan syllable structure included complex onsets. A case is also made that in the last two centuries, these complex onsets in Saramaccan have been simplified from CCV to CVCV. This example of language change has important implications for creole studies because most views of change (for two exceptions, see Muhlhäusler, 1986; Mufwene, 1993), especially those that rely on models of decreolization, often suggest that CV templates precede a change to complex onsets. A change from CCV to CVCV, though representing a common and less marked shift in terms of general syllable typology, appears to be considerably less documented among the Atlantic creole languages.

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