The Baggara Belt constitutes the southernmost periphery of the Arabic-speaking world. It stretches over 2500 km from Nigeria to Sudan and it is largely inhabited by Arab semi-nomadic cattle herders. Despite its common sociohistorical background, the ethnography of Baggara nomads is complex, being the result of a long series of longitudinal migrations and contacts with different ethnolinguistic groups. Thanks to a number of comparative works, there is broad agreement on the inclusion of Baggara dialects within West Sudanic Arabic. However, little or nothing is known of the internal classification of Baggara Arabic. This paper seeks to provide a comparative overview of Baggara Arabic and to explain dialect convergences and divergences within the Baggara Belt in light of both internally and externally motivated changes. By providing a qualitative analysis of selected phonological, morphosyntactic, and lexical features, this study demonstrates that there is no overlapping between the ethnic and dialect borders of the Baggara Belt. Furthermore, it is argued that contact phenomena affecting Baggara Arabic cannot be reduced to a single substrate language, as these are rather induced by areal diffusion and language attrition. These elements support the hypothesis of a gradual process of Baggarization rather than a sudden ethnolinguistic hybridization between Arab and Fulani agropastoralist groups. Over and above, the paper aims at contributing to the debate on the internal classification of Sudanic Arabic by refining the isoglosses commonly adopted for the identification of a West Sudanic dialect subtype.
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