1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bantu Languages
BANTU LANGUAGES. The greater part of Africa south of the equator possesses but one linguistic family so far as its native inhabitants are concerned. This clearly-marked division of human speech has been entitled the Bantu, a name invented by Dr W. H. I. Bleek, and it is, on the whole, the fittest general term with which to designate the most remarkable group of African languages.
It must not be supposed for a moment that all the people who speak Bantu languages belong necessarily to a special and definite type of negro. On the contrary, though there is a certain physical resemblance among those tribes who speak clearly-marked Bantu dialects (the Babangi of the upper Congo, the people of the Great Lakes, the Ova-herero, the Ba-tonga, Zulu-Kaffirs, Awemba and some of the East Coast tribes), there is nevertheless a great diversity in outward appearance, shape of head and other physical characteristics, among the negroes who inhabit Bantu Africa. Some tribes speaking Bantu languages are dwarfs or dwarfish, and belong to the group of Forest Pygmies. Others betray relationship to the Hottentots; others again cannot be distinguished from the most exaggerated types of the black West African negro. Yet others again, especially on the north, are of Gala (Galla) or Nilotic origin. But the general deduction to be drawn from a study of the Bantu languages, as they exist at the present day, is that at some period not more than 3000 years ago a powerful tribe of negroes speaking the Bantu mother-language, allied physically to the negroes of the south-western Nile and southern Lake Chad basins (yet impregnated with the Caucasian Hamite), pushed themselves forcibly from the very heart of Africa (the region between the watersheds of the Shari, Congo and western Nile) into the southern half of the continent, which at that time was probably sparsely populated except in the north-west, east and south. The Congo basin and the south-western watershed of the Nile at the time of the Bantu invasion would have been occupied on the Atlantic seaboard by West Coast negroes, and in the centre by negroes of a low type and by Forest Pygmies; the eastern coasts of Victoria Nyanza and the East African coast region down to opposite Zanzibar probably had a population partly Nilotic-negro and partly Hottentot-Bushman. From Lakes Tanganyika and Nyasa south-westwards to the Cape of Good Hope the population was Forest-negro, Nilotic-negro, Hottentot and Bushman. Over nearly all this area the Bantu swept; and they assimilated or absorbed the vast majority of the preceding populations, of which, physically or linguistically, the only survivors are the scattered tribes of pygmies in the forests of south-west Nile land, Congo basin and Gabun, the central Sudanese of the N.E. Congo, a few patches of quasi-Hottentot, Hamitic and Nilotic peoples between Victoria Nyanza and the Zanzibar coast, and the Bushmen and Hottentots of south-west Africa. The first area of decided concentration on the part of the Bantu was very probably Uganda and the shores of Tanganyika. The main line of advance south-west trended rather to the east coast of Africa than to the west, but bifurcated at the south end of Lake Tanganyika, one great branch passing west between that lake and Nyasa, and the other southwards. Finally, when the Bantu had reached the
south-west corner of Africa, their farther advance was checked by two causes: first, the concentration in a healthy, cattle-rearing part of Africa of the Hottentots (themselves only a superior type of Bushman, but able to offer a much sturdier resistance to the big black Bantu negroes than the crafty but feeble Bushmen), and secondly, the arrival on the scene of the Dutch and British, but for whose final intervention the whole of southern Africa would have been rapidly Bantuized, as far as the imposition of language was concerned.
The theory thus set forth of the origin and progress of the Bantu and the approximate date at which their great southern exodus commenced, is to some extent attributable to the present writer only, and has been traversed at different times by other writers on the same subject. In the nearly total absence of any historical records, the only means of building up Bantu history lies in linguistic research, in the study of existing dialects, of their relative degree of purity, of their connexion one with the other and of the most widely-spread roots common to the majority of the Bantu languages. The present writer, relying on linguistic evidence, fixed the approximate date at which the Bantu negroes left their primal home in the very heart of Africa at not much more than 2000 years ago; and the reason adduced was worth some consideration. It lay in the root common to a large proportion of the Bantu languages expressing the domestic fowl—kuku (nkuku, ngoko, nsusu, nguku, nku). Now the domestic fowl reached Africa first through Egypt, at the time of the Persian occupation—not before 500 to 400 B.C. It would take at that time at least a couple of hundred years before—from people to people and tribe to tribe up the Nile valley—the fowl, as a domestic bird, reached the equatorial regions of Africa. The Muscovy duck, introduced by the Portuguese from Brazil at the beginning of the 17th century, is spreading itself over Negro Africa at just about the same rate. Yet the Bantu people must have had the domestic fowl well established amongst themselves before they left their original home, because throughout Bantu Africa (with rare exceptions and those not among the purest Bantu tribes) the root expressing the domestic fowl recurs to the one vocable of kuku. Curiously enough this root kuku resembles to a marked degree several of the Persian words for "fowl," and is no doubt remotely derived from the cry of the bird. Among those Negro races which do not speak Bantu languages, though they may be living in the closest proximity to the Bantu, the name for fowl is quite different. The fowl was only introduced into Madagascar, as far as researches go, by the Arabs during the historical period, and is not known by any name similar to the root kuku. Moreover, even if the fowl had been (and there is no record of this fact) introduced from Madagascar on to the east coast of Africa, it would be indeed strange if it carried with it to Cameroon, to the White Nile and to Lake Ngami one and the same name. It may, however, be argued that such a thing is possible, that the introduction of the fowl south of the equator need not be in any way coincident with the Bantu invasion, as its name in North Central Africa may have followed it everywhere among the Bantu peoples. But all other cases of introduced plants or animals do not support this idea in the least. The Muscovy duck, for instance, is pretty well distributed throughout Bantu Africa, but it has no common widely-spread name. Even tobacco (though the root "taba" turns up unexpectedly in remote parts of Africa) assumes totally different designations in different Bantu tribes. The Bantu, moreover, remained faithful to a great number of roots like "fowl," which referred to animals, plants, implements and abstract concepts known to them in their original home. Thus there are the root-words for ox (-ñombe, -ombe, -nte), goat (-budi, -buzi, -buri), pig (-guluba), pigeon (-jiba), buffalo (nyati), dog (mbwa), hippopotamus (-bugu, gubu), elephant (-jobo, -joko), leopard (ngwi), house (-zo, -do, -yumba, -anda, -dago, -dabo), moon (-ezi), sun, sky, or God (-juba), water (-ndi, -ndiba, mandiba), lake or river (-anza), drum (ngoma), name (-ina or jina), wizard (nganga), belly, bowel (-vu, -vumo), buttocks (-tako); adjectives like -bi (bad), -eru (white); the numerals, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 and 100; verbs like fwa (to die), ta (to strike, kill), la (da) or lia (di, dia) (to eat). The root-words cited are not a hundredth part of the total number of root-words which are practically common to all the spoken dialects of Bantu Africa. Therefore the possession amongst its root-words of a common name for "fowl" seems to the present writer to show conclusively that (1) the original Bantu tribe must have possessed the domestic fowl before its dispersal through the southern half of Africa began, and that (2) as it is historically certain that the fowl as a domestic bird did not reach Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 B.C., and probably would not have been transmitted to the heart of Africa for another couple of hundred years, the Bantu exodus (at any rate to the south of the equatorial region) may safely be placed at a date not much anterior to 2100 years ago.
The creation of the Bantu type of language (pronominal-prefix) was certainly a much more ancient event than the exodus from the Bantu mother-land. Some form of speech like Fula, Kiama (Tern), or Kposo of northern Togoland, or one of the languages of the lower Niger or Benue, may have been taken up by ancient Libyan, Hamite or Nilotic conquerors and cast into the type which we now know as Bantu,—a division of sexless Negro speech, however, that shows no obvious traces of Hamitic (Caucasian) influence. We have no clue at present to the exact birth-place of the Bantu nor to the particular group of dialects or languages from which it sprang. Its origin and near relationships are as much a puzzle as is the case with the Aryan speech. Perhaps in grammatical construction (suffixes taking the place of prefixes) Fula shows some resemblance; and Fula possesses the concord in a form considerably like that of the Bantu, as well as offering affinities in the numerals 3 and 4, and in a few nominal, pronominal and verbal roots. The Timne and cognate languages of Sierra Leone and the north Guinea coast use pronominal prefixes and a system of concord, the employment of the latter being precisely similar to the same practice in the Bantu languages; but in word-roots (substantives, numerals, pronouns, verbs) there is absolutely no resemblance with this north Guinea group of prefix-using languages. In the numerals 2, 3, 4, and sometimes 5, and in a few verbal roots, there is a distinct affinity between Bantu and the languages of N. Togoland, the Benue river, lower Niger, Calabar and Gold Coast. The same thing may be said with less emphasis about the Madi and possibly the Nyam-Nyam (Makarka) group of languages in Central Africa though in none of these forms of speech is there any trace of the concord. Prefixes of a simple kind are used in the tongues of Ashanti, N. Togoland, lower Niger and eastern Niger delta, Cross River and Benue, to express differences between singular and plural, and also the quality of the noun; but they do not correspond to those of the Bantu type, though they sometimes fall into "classes." In the north-west of the Bantu field, in the region between Cameroon and the north-western basin of the Congo, the Cross river and the Benue, there is an area of great extent occupied by languages of a "semi-Bantu" character, such as Nki, Mbudikum, Akpa, Mbe, Bayoñ, Manyañ, Bafut and Banshō, and the Munshi, Jaráwa, Kororofa, Kamuku and Gbari of the central and western Benue basin. The resemblances to the Bantu in certain word-roots are of an obvious nature; and prefixes in a very simple form are generally used for singular and plural, but the rest of the concord is very doubtful. Here, however, we have the nearest relations of the Bantu, so far as etymology of word-roots is concerned. Further evidence of slight etymological and even grammatical relationships may be traced as far west as the lower Niger and northern and western Gold Coast languages (and, in some word-roots, the Mandingo group). The Fula language would offer some grammatical resemblance if its suffixes were turned into prefixes (a change which has actually taken place in the reverse direction in the English language between its former Teutonic and its modern Romanized conditions; cf. "offset" and "set-off," "upstanding" and "standing-up").
The legends and traditions of the Bantu peoples themselves invariably point to a northern origin, and a period, not wholly removed from their racial remembrance, when they were strangers in their present lands. Seemingly the Bantu, somewhat early in their migration down the east coast, took to the sea, and not merely occupied the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar, but travelled as far afield as the Comoro archipelago and even the west coast of Madagascar. Their invasion of Madagascar must have been fairly considerable in numbers, and they doubtless gave rise to the race of black people known traditionally to the Hovas as the Va-zimba.
The accompanying map will show pretty accurately the distribution of the Bantu-speaking Negroes at the present day.
It will be seen by a glance at this map that the areas in which are spoken Bantu languages of typical structure and archaic form are somewhat widely spread. Perhaps on the whole the most archaic dialects at the present day are those of Mount Elgon, Ruwenzori, Unyoro, Uganda, the north coast of Tanganyika and of the Bemba country to the south-west of Tanganyika; also those in the vicinity of Lake Bangweulu, and the Nkonde and Kese dialects of the north and north-east coasts of Lake Nyasa; also (markedly) the Subiya speech of the western Zambezi. Another language containing a good many original Bantu roots and typical features is the well-known Oci-herero of Damaraland (though this S.W. African group also presents marked peculiarities and some strange divergencies). Kimakonde, on the east coast of Africa, is a primitive Bantu tongue; so in its roots, but not in its prefixes, is the celebrated Ki-swahili of Zanzibar. Ci-bodzo of the Zambezi delta is also an archaic type of great interest. The Zulu-Kaffir language, though it exhibits marked changes and deviations in vocabulary and phonetics (both probably of recent date), preserves a few characteristics of the hypothetical mother-tongue: so much so that, until the languages of the Great Lakes came to be known, Zulu-Kaffir was regarded as the most archaic type of Bantu speech, a position from which it is now completely deposed. It is in some features unusually divergent from the typical Bantu.
Classification.—With our present knowledge of the existing Bantu tongues and their affinities, it is possible to divide them approximately into the following numbered groups and subdivisions, commencing at the north-eastern extremity of the Bantu domain, where, on the whole, the languages approximate nearest to the hypothetical parent speech.
(1) The Uganda-Unyoro group. This includes all the dialects between the Victoria Nile and Busoga on the east and north, the east coast of Lake Albert, the range of Ruwenzori and the Congo Forest on the west; on the south-east and south, the south coast of the Victoria Nyanza, and a line from near Emin Pasha Gulf to the Malagarazi river and the east coast of Tanganyika. On the south-west this district is bounded more or less by the Rusizi river down to Tanganyika. It includes the district of Busoga on the north-east and all the archipelagoes and inhabited islands of the Victoria Nyanza even as far east as Bukerebe, except those islands near the north-east coast. The dialects of Busoga, the Sese Islands and the west coast of Lake Victoria are closely related to the language of the kingdom of Uganda. Allied to, yet quite distinct from the Uganda subjection, is that which is usually classified as Unyoro. This includes the dialects spoken by the Hima (Hamitic aristocracy of these equatorial lands—Uru-hima, Ru-hinda, &c.), Ru-songora, Ru-iro, Ru-toro, Ru-tusi, and all the kindred dialects of Karagwe, Busiba, Ruanda, Businja and Bukerebe. Ki-rundi, of the Burundi country at the north end of Tanganyika, and the other languages of eastern Tanganyika down to Ufipa are closely allied to the Unyoro sub-section of group 1, but perhaps adhere more closely to group 12. The third independent sub-section of this group is Lu-konjo, the language which is spoken on the southern flanks of the Ruwenzori Range and thence southwards to Lake Kivu and the eastern limits of the Congo Forest.
(2) The second group on the geographical list is Lihuku-Kuamba, the separate and somewhat peculiar Bantu dialects lingering in the lands to the south and south-west of Albert Nyanza (Mboga country). Lihuku (or Libvanuma) is a very isolated type of Bantu, quite apart from the Uganda-Unyoro groups, with which it shows no special affinity at all, though in close juxtaposition. Its alliance with Kuamba of western Ruwenzori is not very close. Other affinities are with the degraded Bantu dialects (Ki-bira, &c.) of the Ituri-Aruwimi forests. Kuamba is spoken on the west and north slopes of Ruwenzori. Both Kuamba and Lihuku show a marked relationship with the languages on the northern Congo and Aruwimi, less in grammar than in vocabulary.
(3) The Kavirondo-Masaba section. This group, which includes the Lu-nyara, Luwanga, Lukonde and Igizii of the north-east and eastern shores of the Victoria Nyanza and the northern Kavirondo and Mount Elgon territories, is related to the Luganda section more than to any group of the Bantu tongues, but it is a very distinct division, in its prefixes the most archaic. It includes the languages spoken along the western flanks of Mount Elgon, those of Bantu Kavirondo, and of the eastern coast-lands of the Victoria Nyanza (Igizii).
(4) The Kikuyu-Kamba group of British East Africa, east of the Rift valley. It includes, besides the special dialects of Kikuyu and Ukambani, all the scattered fragments of Bantu speech on Mount Kenya and the upper Tana river (Dhaicho).
(5) The Kilimanjaro (Chaga-Siha) group, embracing the rather peculiar dialects of Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru and Ugweno.
(6) The Pokomo-Nyika-Giriama-Taveita group represents the Bantu dialects of the coast province of British East Africa, between (and including) the Tana river on the north and the frontier of German East Africa on the south.
(7) Swahili, the language of Zanzibar and of the opposite coast, a form of speech now widely spread as a commercial language over Eastern and Central Africa. Swahili is a somewhat archaic Bantu dialect, indigenous probably to the East African coast south of the Ruvu (Pangani) river, which by intermixture with Arabic has become the lingua franca of eastern Africa between the White Nile and the Zambezi. It was almost certainly of mainland origin, distinct from the original local dialects of Zanzibar and Pemba, which may have belonged to group No. 6. There are colonies of Swahili-speaking people at Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu, and even as far north as the Shebeli river in Somaliland, also along the coast of German and Portuguese East Africa as far south as Angoche. In the coast-lands between the Ruvu or Pangani river on the north and the Kilwa settlements on the south, the local languages and dialects are more or less related to Swahili, though they are independent languages. Amongst these may be mentioned Bondei, Shambala (north of the Ruvu), Nguru, Zeguha, Ki-mrima and Ki-zaramo.
(8) This group might be described as Kaguru-Sagala-Kami. It is one which occupies the inland territories of German East Africa, between the Swahili coast dialects on the east and the domain of the Nyamwezi (No. 11) on the west. On the north this group is bounded by the non-Bantu languages of the Masai, Mbugu and Taturu, and on the south by the Ruaha river. This group includes Kigogo and Irangi. (9) The dialects of the Comoro Islands, between the East African coast and Madagascar, are styled Hi-nzua or Anzuani and Shi-ngazija. They are somewhat closely related to Swahili.
(10) The archaic Makonde or Mabiha of the lower Ruvuma, and the coast between Lindi and Ibo; this might conceivably be attached to the Swahili branch.
(11) The Nyamwezi group includes all the dialects of the Nyamwezi country west of Ugogo as far north as the Victoria Nyanza (where the tongues melt into group No. l), and bounded on the south by the Upper Ruaha river, and on the west by the eastern borderlands of Tanganyika. The Nyamwezi genus penetrates south-west to within a short distance of Lake Rukwa. A language of this group was at one time a good deal spoken in the southern part of the Belgian Congo, having been imported there by traders who made themselves chiefs.
(12) The Tanganyika languages (Ki-rega, Kabwari, Kiguha, &c). These dialects are chiefly spoken in the regions west-north-west, and perhaps north and east of Tanganyika, from the vicinity of Lake Albert Edward on the north and the Lukuga outlet of Tanganyika on the south. On the west they are bounded by the Congo Forest and the Manyema genus (No. 13). The languages on the east coast of Tanganyika (Ki-rundi, Kigeye, &c.) seem to be more nearly connected with those of group No. 1 (Uganda-Unyoro), yet perhaps they are more conveniently included here.
(13) The Manyema (Baenya) group includes most of the corrupt Bantu dialects between the western watershed of Tanganyika and the main stream of the Luapula-Congo, extending also still farther north, and comprising (seemingly) the languages of the Aruwimi basin, such as Yalulema, Soko, Lokele, Kusu, Tu-rumbu, &c. On the west the Manyema group is bounded by the languages of the Lomami valley, which belong to groups Nos. 15 and 16; on the east the Manyema genus merges into the much purer Bantu dialects of groups Nos. 1 and 12. An examination of the Lihuku-Kuamba section (No. 2) shows these tongues to be connected with the Manyema group. The Kibira dialects of the north-eastern Congo Forest (Ituri district) may perhaps be placed in this section.
(14) The Rua-Luba-Lunda-Marungu group (in which are included Kanyoka, Lulua and Ki-tabwa) occupies a good deal of the south central basin of the Congo, between the south-west coast-line of Tanganyika on the east and the main streams of the Kasai and Kwango on the west, between the Bakuba country on the north and the Zambezi watershed on the south.
(15) The Bakuba assemblage of Central Congo dialects (Songe, Shilange, Babuma, &c.) probably includes all the Bantu languages between the Lomami river on the east and the Kwa-Kasai and Upper Kwilu on the west. Its boundary on the north is perhaps the Sankuru river.
(16) The Balolo group consists of all the languages of the Northern Congo bend (bounded on the north, east and west by the main stream of the Congo), and perhaps the corrupt dialects of the Northern Kasai, Kwilu and Kwango (Babuma, Bahuana, Bambala, Ba-yaka, Bakutu, &c.), where these are not nearer allied to Teke (No. 18) or to Bakuba.
(17) The Bangala-Bobangi-Liboko group comprises the commercial languages of the Upper Congo (Ngala, Bangi, Liboko, Poto, Ngombe, Yanzi, &c.) and all the known Congo dialects along and to the north and sometimes south of the main stream, from as far west as the junction of the Sanga to as far east as the Rubi and Lomami rivers, and those between the Congo and the Lower Ubangi river and up the Ubangi, as far north as the limits of the Bantu domain (about 3° 30′ N.). Allied to these perhaps are the scarcely-known forms of speech in the basin of the Sanga river, besides the "Ba-yanzi" dialects of Lakes Mantumba and Leopold II.
(18) The Bateke (Batio) group. This may be taken roughly to include most of the Bantu dialects west of the Sanga river, northwest of the Lower Congo, south of the Upper Ogowe and Ngoko rivers and east of the Atlantic coast-lands.
(19) The Di-Kele and Benga dialects of Spanish Guinea and the Batanga coast of German Cameroon.
(20) The Fañ or Pangwe forms of speech (so corrupt as to be only just recognizable as Bantu), which occupy the little-known interior of German Cameroon and French Gabun, down to the Ogowe, and as far east and north as the Sañga, Sanagá and Mbam rivers, and the immediate hinterland of the "Duala" Cameroon.
(21) The Duala group, which on the other hand is of a much purer Bantu type, includes the languages spoken on the estuary and delta of the Cameroon river.
(22) The Isubu-Bakwiri group of the coast-lands north of Cameroon delta (Ambas Bay), and on the west slopes of Cameroon Mts.
(23) The Bantu dialects of Fernando Pô (Ediya, Bateti, Bani, &c.) distantly allied to Nos 24, 2 and 13.
(24) The Barondo-Bakundu group, which begins on the north at the Rio del Rey on the extremity of the Bantu field, near the estuary of the Cross river. This group may also include Barombi and Basā, Boñkeñ, Abo, Nkosi and other much-debased dialects, which are spoken on the eastern slopes of the Cameroon mountains and on the Cameroon river (Magombe), and thence to the Sanagá and Nyong rivers. Eastwards and north-eastwards of this group, the languages (such as Mbe, Bati, Nki, Mbudikum, Bafut, Bayoñ) may be described as "semi-Bantu," and evincing affinities with the forms of speech in the basin of the Central Benue river and also with the Fañ (No. 20).
(25) Turning southwards again from the north-westernmost limit of the Bantu, we meet with another group, the Mpongwe-Orungu and Aduma languages of French Gabun, and the tongues of the Lower Ogowe and Fernan Vaz promontory.
(26) These again shade on the south into the group of Kakongo dialects of the Loango and Sete Kama coast—such as Ba-kama, Ba-nyanga, Ma-yombe, Ba-vili, Ba-kamba and Ka-kongo (Kabinda).
(27) The Kongo language group comprises the dialects along the lower course of the Congo from its mouth to Stanley Pool; also the territory of the old kingdom of Congo, lying to the south of that river (and north of the river Loje) from the coast eastwards to the watershed of the river Kwango (and the longitude, more or less, of Stanley Pool).
(28) In the south the Kongo dialects melt imperceptibly into the closely-allied Angola language. This group may be styled in a general way Mbundu, and it includes the languages of Central Angola, such as Ki-mbundu, Mbamba, Ki-sama, Songo, U-mbangala. The boundary of this genus on the east is probably the Kwango river, beyond which the Lunda languages begin (No. 14). On the north, the river Loje to some extent serves as a frontier between the Kongo and Mbundu tongues. On the south the boundary of group No. 28 is approximately the 11th degree of south latitude.
(29) Very distinct from the Ki-mbundu speech (though with connecting forms) is the Oci-herero group, which includes the Herero language of Damaraland, the Umbundu of the Bihe highlands of south Angola, the Nano of the Benguela coast, and Si-ndonga, Ku-anyama and Oci-mbo of the southern regions of Portuguese Angola and the northern half of German South-West Africa. The languages of group No. 29 probably extend as far inland as the Kwito and Kubango rivers, in short, to the Zambezi watershed. On the south they are confronted with the Hottentot languages. The Haukoin or Hill Damaras—a Negro race of unexplained affinities and apparently speaking a Hottentot language—occupy an enclave in the area of Herero speech.
(30) What may be called the Kiboko or Kibokwe (also Kioko) family of eastern Angola is a language-group which seems to offer affinities to the languages of the Upper Zambezi and to those of groups Nos. 28 and 29. It extends eastwards into the south-western portion of the Belgian Congo, and includes the Lubale of northern Barotseland and the sources of the river Zambezi, and possibly the Gangela of south-western Angola.
(31) Southwards of group No. 30 is that of the Barotseland languages, of which the best-known form—almost the only one that is effectively illustrated—is Si-luyi. To Si-luyi may be related the Mabunda of Western Barotseland. The dialects of the Ambwela, A-mbwe, Ma-bukushu and A-kwamashi are probably closely related.
(32) Next is a group which might be styled the Subiya-Tonga-Ila, though some authorities think that Tonga and Ila deserve to be ranked as an independent group. There is, however, a close alliance in structure between the languages of each of the two subsections. The Tonga subgroup would include the dialects of the Ba-tetela, the Ba-ila (Mashukulumbwe) and of all Central Zambezia. Ci-subiya is the dominant language of South-West Zambezia, along a portion of the Zambezi river south of Barotseland, and in the lands lying between the Zambezi and the Chobe-Linyante river. Subiya is one of the most archaic of Bantu languages, more so than Tonga. Both are without any strong affinity to Oci-herero, and only evince a slight relationship with the Zulu group (No. 44).
(33) The Bisa or Wisa family includes the languages of Iramba, Bausi, Lukinga, in the southernmost projection of the Belgian Congo, and the dialects of Lubisa and Ilala between the Chambezi river and Lake Bangweulu on the north, and the Luangwa river on the east and south; perhaps also some of the languages along the course of the Upper Luapula river.
(34) With it is closely allied that of the Bemba or Emba dialects. This interesting genus occupies the ground between the south-west and south coasts of Tanganyika, Lake Mweru, and the Upper Chambezi river. The Ki-bemba domain may be taken to include the locally-modified Ki-lungu and Ki-mambwe of South and South-East Tanganyika.
(35) What may be called the North Nyasa or Nkonde group comprises all the dialects of the north-west and north coasts of Lake Nyasa (such as Ici-wandia and Iki-nyikiusa) and Ishi-nyiχa of the Nyasa-Tanganyika plateau, and extends perhaps as far north west as the Fipa country (Iki-fipa), and the shores of Lake Rukwa (Ici-wungu) in the vicinity of the Nyamwezi domain (No. 11). Iki-fipa, however, has some affinities to the Tanganyika and western Victoria-Nyanza languages (groups Nos. 1 and 12). (36) The western part of Nyasaland, south of group No. 35, is occupied by the Tumbuka section, which includes the languages of the Tumbuka, Henga and A-tonga peoples, and occupies the area between the western shores of Lake Nyasa and the Upper Luangwa river.
(37) Eastwards of No. 35 (North Nyasa group) lies the Kinga speech of the lofty Livingstone mountains, which is sufficiently distinct from its neighbours to be classified as a separate group.
(38) East of the Livingstone mountains and west of the Ruaha river, south also of the Unyamwezi domain, extends the Sango-Bena-Hehe-Sutu group.
(39) The extensive Yao genus of languages stretches from just behind the coast of the Lindi settlements in German East Africa (Ki-mwera) south-westward across the Ruvuma river to the north-east shores of Lake Nyasa (Ki-kese), and thence back to the valley of the Lujenda-Ruvuma (Cingindo), and southwards in various dialects of the Yao language to the south-east corner of Lake Nyasa and the region east of the Shire river, between Lake Nyasa, the Shire highlands and Mt. Mlanje. It is only since the middle of the 19th century that the Yao language has conquered territory to the south of Lake Nyasa. There still remain within its domain colonies of Nyanja-speaking people.
(40) Eastwards of the Yao domain, and bounded on the north by the range of that language in the Ruvuma valley and by the separate group of Ki-makonde (No. 10), ranges the well-marked Makua genus. The languages thus described occupy the greater part of Portuguese East Africa away from the watershed of Lake Nyasa. The Makua language is probably divided into the following dialects:—I-medo, I-lomwe, I-tugulu and Anguru. There are other dialects unnamed in the Angoji coast-region, where, however, strong colonies of Swahili-speaking people are settled. The southern part of the Makua domain is occupied by the Ci-cuambo of the Quelimane district.
(41) Nyanja, perhaps the most extensive group of cognate languages in the Bantu field, is principally associated with the east and west shores of the southern half of Lake Nyasa. It also covers all the valley of the Shire, except portions of the Shire highlands, down to the junction of that stream with the Zambezi, and further, the lands on both banks of the Zambezi down to and including its delta. West of Lake Nyasa, the Nyanja domain extends in the Senga language to the river Luangwa and the Central Zambezi, also along both banks of the Central Zambezi. South of the Central Zambezi, Nyanja dialects are spoken as far west as the Victoria Falls. Thence they extend eastwards over Mashonaland to the sea-coast. With this family may also be associated the languages of the Portuguese coast-region south of the Zambezi as far as Inhambane. The principal dialects of the Nyanja language are the Cinyanja of Eastern Nyasaland, Ci-peta and Ci-maravi of South-West Nyasaland to as far as the watershed of the Luangwa river, the Ci-mañanja of the Shire highlands, Ci-mobo and Ci-machinjiri of the Shire valley, Ci-sena or Ci-nyungwe of Tete and Sena (Zambezi), and Ci-mazaro of the Lower Zambezi. The Luangwa regions, as already mentioned, are occupied by the distinct but closely-allied Senga language. South of the Central Zambezi there are Ci-nanzwa in the region near the Victoria Falls, Ci-nyai, Shi-kalaña, Ci-shuna (Ci-gomo), Ci-loze, and possibly Ci-shangwe (or Ci-hlangane) and Shi-lenge which link on to the Beira coast dialects. In the delta of the Zambezi is to be found Ci-podzo, a very distinct language, yet one which belongs to the Nyanja genus. Ci-shangane, Chopi or Shi-lenge and other dialects of the Beira and Inhambane coast-lands and of Manika have been much influenced by Zulu dialects (Tebele and Ronga).
(42) The well-marked Bechuana language group has very distinct features of its own. This includes all the Bantu dialects of the Bechuanaland protectorate west of the Guai river. Bechuana dialects (such as Ci-venda, Se-suto, Se-peli, Se-roloñ, Se-χlapi, &c.) cover a good deal of the north and west of the Transvaal, and extend over all the Orange River Colony and Bechuanaland. Se-suto is the language of Basutoland; Se-rolon, Se-mangwato, of the Eastern Kalahri; Se-kololo is the court language of Barotseland; Ci-venda and Se-pedi or Peli are the principal dialects of the Transvaal. Group No. 42, in fact, stretches between the Zambezi on the north and the Orange river on the south, and extends westward (except for Hottentot and Bushmen interruptions) to the domain of the Oci-herero.
(43) The Ronga (Tonga) languages of Portuguese South-East Africa (Gazaland, Lower Limpopo valley, and patches of the North Transvaal (Shi-gwamba), Delagoa Bay) are almost equally related to the Nyanja group (41) on the one hand, and to Zulu on the other, probably representing a mingling of the two influences, of which the latter predominates.
(44) Lastly comes the Zulu-Kaffir group, occupying parts of Rhodesia, the eastern portion of the Transvaal, Swaziland, Natal and the eastern half of Cape Colony. In vocabulary, and to some degree in phonetics, the Zulu language (divided at most into three dialects) is related in some phonetic features to No. 42, and of course to No. 43; otherwise it stands very much alone in its developments. It may have distant relations in groups Nos. 29 and 32. Dialects of Zulu (Tebele and Ki-ngoni or Ci-nongi) are spoken at the present day in South-West Rhodesia and in Western Nyasaland and on the plateaus north-east of Lake Nyasa, carried thither by the Zulu raiders of the early 19th century.
The foregoing is only an attempt to classify the known forms of Bantu speech and to give their approximate geographical limits. The writer is well aware that here and there exist small patches of languages spoken by two or three villages which, though emphatically Bantu, possess isolated characters making them not easily included within any of the above-mentioned groups; but too detailed a reference to these languages would be wearisome and perhaps puzzling. Broadly speaking, the domain of Bantu speech seems to be divided into four great sections:—(a) the languages of the Great Lakes and the East Coast down to and including the Zambezi basin; (b) the South-Central group (Bechuana-Zulu); (c) the languages of the South-West, from the southern part of the Belgian Congo to Damaraland and the Angola-Congo coast; and (d) the Western group, including all the Central and Northern Congo and Cameroon languages, and probably also group No. 2 of the Albert Nyanza and Semliki river.
Common Features.—There is no mistaking a Bantu language, which perhaps is what renders the study of this group so interesting and encouraging. The homogeneity of this family is so striking, as compared with the inexplicable confusion of tongues which reigns in Africa north of the Bantu borderland, that the close relationships of these dialects have perhaps been a little exaggerated by earlier writers.
The phonology of the Western group (d) is akin to that of the Negro languages of Western and West-Central Africa. A small portion of (b) the South-Central group (Zulu) has picked up clicks, perhaps borrowed from the Hottentots and Bushmen. Otherwise, the three groups (a), (b) and (c) are closely related in phonology, and never, except here and there on the borders of the Western group, adopt the peculiar West African combinations of kp and gb, which are so characteristic of African speech between the Upper Nile and the Guinea coast.
The following propositions may be laid down to define the special or peculiar features of the Bantu languages:—
(1) They are agglutinative in their construction, the syntax being formed by adding prefixes principally and also suffixes to the root, but no infixes (that is to say, no mutable syllable incorporated into the middle of the root-word). (2) The root excepting its terminal vowel is practically unchanging, though its first or penultimate vowel or consonant may be modified in pronunciation by the preceding prefix, or the last vowel in the same way by the succeeding suffix.
(3) The vowels of the Bantu languages are always of the Italian type, and no true Bantu language includes obscure sounds like ö and ü. Each word must end in a vowel (though in some modern dialects in Eastern Equatorial, West and South Africa the terminal vowel may be elided in rapid pronunciation, or be dropped, or absorbed in the terminal consonant, generally a nasal). No two consonants can come together without an intervening vowel, except in the case of a nasal, labial or sibilant. No consonant is doubled. Apparent exceptions occur to this last rule where two nasals, two r's or two d's come together through the elision of a vowel or a labial.
(4) Substantives are divided into classes or genders, indicated by the pronominal particle prefixed to the root. These prefixes are used either in a singular or in a plural sense. With the exception of the "abstract" prefix Bu (No. 14), no singular prefix can be used as a plural nor vice versa. There is a certain degree of correspondence between the singular and plural prefixes (thus No. 2 prefix serves almost invariably as a plural to No. 3; No. 8 corresponds as a plural to No. 7). The number of prefixes common to the whole group is perhaps sixteen. The pronominal particle or prefix of the noun is attached as a prefix to the roots of the adjectives, pronouns, prepositions and verbs of the sentence which are connected with the governing noun; and though in course of time these particles may differ in form from the prefix of the substantive, they were akin in origin. (This system is the "concord" of Dr Bleek. The pronominal particles, whether in nominative or accusative case, must always precede the nominal, pronominal, adjectival and verbal roots, though they often follow the auxiliary prefix-participles used in conjugating verbs, and the roots of some prepositions. (5) The root of the verb is the second person singular of the imperative.
(6) No sexual gender is recognized in the pronouns and concord. Sexual gender may be indicated by a male "prefix" of varying form, often identical with a word meaning "father," while there is a feminine prefix, na or nya, connected with the root meaning "mother," or a suffix ka or kazi, indicating "wife," "female." The 1st and 2nd prefixes invariably indicate living beings and are Usually restricted to humanity.
The sixteen original prefixes of the Bantu languages are given below in the most archaic forms to be found at the present day. The still older types of these prefixes met with in one or two languages, and deduced generally by the other forms of the particle used in the syntax, are given in brackets. It is possible that some of these prefixes resulted from the combination of a demonstrative pronoun and a prefix indicating quality or number.
|Class||1. Umu- (Ñgu-mu-).||Class||2. Aba (Mba-ba or Ñga-ba).|
|"||3. Umu- (Ñgu-mu-).||"||4. Imi- (Ñgi-mi-).|
|"||5. Idi (Ndi-di-).||"||6. Ama- (Ñga-ma-).|
|"||7. Iki- (Ñki-ki-).||"||8. Ibi- (Mbi-bi-).|
|"||9. I-n- or I-ni- (?Ngi-ni-).||"||10. Iti-, Izi-, Iti-n-, Izi-n- (?Ñgi-ti-).|
|"||11. Ulu (Ndu-du-).||"||12. Utu (?Ntu-tu-); often diminutive in sense.|
|"||13. Aka (?Nka-ka-); usually diminutive, sometimes honorific.|
|"||14. Ubu- (?Mbu-bu-); sometimes used in a plural sense;|
generally employed to indicate abstract
|"||15. Uku (?Ñku-ku-); identical with the preposition "to,"|
used as an infinitive with verbs, but also with
certain nouns indicating primarily functions of the
|"||16. Apa (Mpa-pa-); locative; applied to nouns and other|
forms of speech to indicate place or position;
identical with the adverb "here," as Ku- is with
To these sixteen prefixes, the use of which is practically common to all members of the family, might perhaps be added No. 17, Fi- or Vi-, a prefix in the singular number, having a diminutive sense, which is found in some of the western and north-western Bantu tongues, chiefly in the northern half of the Congo basin and Cameroon. It is represented as far east (in the form of I-) as the Manyema language on the Upper Congo, near Tanganyika. This prefix cannot be traced to derivation from any others among the sixteen, certainly not to No. 8, as it is always used in the singular. Its corresponding plural prefix is No. 12 (Tu-). Prefix No. 18 is Ogu-, which has, as a plural prefix, No. 19, Aga-. These are both used in an augmentative sense, and their use seems to be confined to the Luganda and Masaba dialects, and perhaps some branches of the Unyoro language. These, like No. 17, are regular prefixes, since they are supplied with the concord (-gu- and -ga-). Lastly, there is the 20th prefix, Mu-, which is really a preposition meaning "in" or "into," often combined in meaning with another particle, -ni, used always as a suffix. The 20th prefix, Mu-, however, does not seem to have a complete concord, as it is only used adjectivally or as a preposition and has no pronominal accusative.
The concord may be explained thus:—Let us for a moment reconstruct the original Bantu mother-tongue (as attempts are sometimes made to deduce the ancient Aryan from a comparison of the most archaic of its daughters) and propound sentences to illustrate the repetition of pronominal particles known as the concord.
|They||these-they person||they bad||they who kill||we fear them.|
|Rendered into the modern dialect of Luganda this would be:—|
|They||these-they person||they bad||they who kill||we them fear.|
|(They are bad people who kill; we fear them.)|
|This tree||this here||this falls;||thou this seest?|
|Rendered into Kiguha of North-West Tanganyika, this would be:—|
|It tree||this here||it falls;||thou it seest?|
|(The tree falls; dost thou see it?)|
The prefixes and their corresponding particles have varied greatly in form from the original syllables, as the various Bantu dialects became more and more corrupt. Assuming these prefixes to have consisted once of two distinct particles, such as, for example, Nos. 1 and 3, Ñgu-mu-, or the 6th plural prefix Nga-ma-, the first syllable seems to have been of the nature of a demonstrative pronoun, and the second more like a numeral or an adjective. Mu- probably meant "one," and Ma- a collective numeral of indefinite number, applied to liquids (especially water), a tribe of men, a herd of beasts—anything in the mass. In the corresponding particles of the concord as applied to adjectives, verbs and pronouns, sometimes the first syllable, Ñgu or Ñga was taken for the concord and sometimes the second mu or ma. This would account for the seemingly inexplicable lack of correspondence between the modern prefix and its accompanying particle, which so much puzzled Bleek and other early writers on the Bantu languages. In many of these tongues, for example, the particle which corresponds at the present day to the plural prefix Ma- is not always Ma, but more often Ga-, Ya-, A-; while to Mu- (Classes 1 and 3) the corresponding particle besides -mu- is gu-, gw-, u-, wu-, yu-, ñ-, &c.
The second prefix. Ba- or Aba-, is, in the most archaic Bantu speech (the languages of Mt. Elgon), Baba- in its definite form (Ñgaba sometimes in Zulu-Kaffir). The concord is -ba- in all the less corrupt Bantu tongues, but this plural prefix degenerates into Va-, Wa-, Ma-, and A-. The concord of the 4th prefix, Mi-, is gi-, -i-, -ji-, and sometimes -mi-. The commonest form of the 5th prefix at the present day is Li- (the older and more correct is Di-), and its concord is the same; this 5th prefix is often dropped (the concord remaining) or becomes Ri-, I-, Ji-, and Ni-. The 7th prefix, Ki-, in many non-related dialects pursues a parallel course through Ci- into Si- (=Shi) and Si- and its concord resembles it. The 8th prefix is still more variable. In its oldest form this is Ibi- or Mbibi-. It is invariably the plural of the 7th. It becomes in different forms of Bantu speech Vi-, Pi-, Fi-, Fy-, Pši-, Ši-, I-, By-, Bzi-, Psi-, Zwi-, Zi- and Ri-, with a concord that is similar. The 10th prefix, which was originally Ti- or Tin-, or Zi- or Zin-, becomes Jin-, Rin-, Din-, Lin-, θin-, θon-. &c. The n in this prefix is really the singular prefix No. 9, which is sometimes retained in the plural, and sometimes omitted. In the case of the 10th prefix, the concord or corresponding pronoun persists long after the prefix has fallen out of use as a definite article. Thus, though it is absent as a plural prefix for nouns in the Swahili of Zanzibar, it reappears in the concord. For instance:—Ñombe hizi zangu—Cows these mine (These cows are mine), although Ñombe has ceased to be ziñombe in the plural, the Zi- particle reappears in hizi and zangu. In fact, the persistence of this concord, which exists in almost every known Bantu language in connexion with the 10th prefix, shows that prefix to have been in universal use at one time. The 11th prefix -Lu- seems to be descended from an older form, Ndu-. Its commonest type is Lu-, but it sometimes loses the L and becomes U-, and in the more archaic dialects is usually pronounced Du- or Ru-. It is also Nu- in one or two languages. The 12th prefix (Tu-), always used in a diminutive sense, disappears in many of these languages. Where met with it is generally Tu- or To-, but sometimes the initial T becomes R (Ru-, Ro-) or L (Lu-, Lo-) or even Y (Yo-), the concord following the fortunes of the prefix. The 13th prefix (Ka-) is sometimes confused with the 7th (Ki) and merged into it and vice versa. Ka- very often takes the 8th prefix as a plural, more commonly the 12th, sometimes the 14th. This prefix (Ka-) entirely disappears in the north-western section of the Bantu languages. Bleek thought that it persisted in the attenuated form of E- so characteristic of the Cameroon and northern Congo languages, but later investigations show this E- to be a reduction of Ki- (Ke-) the 7th prefix. The 14th prefix Bu- is very persistent, but frequently loses its initial letter B, which is either softened into V or W, or disappears altogether, the prefix becoming U- or O- or Ow-. Sometimes this prefix becomes palatized into By- or even Tš- (C-). The concord follows suit. The 15th prefix, Ku-, occasionally loses its initial K or softens into Hu or χυ or strengthens into Gu. Its concord under these circumstances sometimes remains in the form of Ku-. The 16th, Pa-, prefix is one of the most puzzling in its distribution and its phonetic changes. A very large number of the Bantu languages in the north, east and west have a dislike to the consonant P, which they frequently transmute into an aspirate (H), or soften into V, W, or F, or simply drop out. There is too much evidence in favour of this prefix having been originally Pa- or Mpa-pa to enable us to give it any other form in reconstructing the Bantu mother-tongue. Yet in the most archaic Bantu dialects to the north of the Victoria Nyanza it is nowhere found in the form of Pa-. It is either Ha- (and Ha- changes eastward into Sa-!) or Wa-. But for its existence in this shape in the language of Uganda one might almost be led to think that the 16th locative prefix began as Ha-, and by some process without a parallel changed in the east and south to the form of Pa-. There are, however, a good many place names in the northern part of the Uganda protectorate, in the region now occupied by Nilotic negroes, which begin with Pa-. These place names would seem to be of ancient Bantu origin in a land from which the Bantu negroes were subsequently driven by Nilotic invaders from the north. They may be relics therefore of a time before the Pa- prefix of those regions had changed to the modern form of Ha-. In S.W. and N.W. Cameroon the initial p of the 16th prefix reappears in two or three dialects; but elsewhere in North-West Bantu Africa and in the whole basin of the Congo, except the extreme south and south-east, the form Pa- is never met with; it is Va-, Wa-, Ha-, Fa-, or A-. In the Secuana group of dialects it is Fa- or Ha-; in the Luyi language of Barotseland it assumes the very rare form of Ba-, while the first prefix is weakened to A-.
The pronouns in Bantu are in most cases traceable to some such general forms as these:—
|I, me, my||ñgi, mi, ñgu.|
|Thou, thee, thy||gwe, ku; -ko.|
|He or she, him, her, his, &c||a-, ya-, wa- (nom.); also ñgu-|
(which becomes yu-, ye-, wu-,
hu-, u-); -mu (acc.); -ka,
-kwe (poss.); there is also
another form, ndi (nom. and
poss.) in the Western Bantu
|We, us, our||isu, swi-, tu-, ti-; -tu- (acc.);|
|Ye, you, your||inu, mu-, nyu-, nyi-, -ni;|
-nu, -mu- (acc.); -inu
|They, them, their||babo, ba-; -ba- (acc.); -babo (poss.).|
The Bantu verb consists of a practically unchangeable root which is employed as the second person singular of the imperative. To this root are prefixed and suffixed various particles. These are worn-down verbs which have become auxiliaries or they are reduced adverbs or prepositions. It is probable (with one exception) that the building up of the verbal root into moods and tenses has taken place independently in the principal groups of Bantu languages, the arrangement followed being probably founded on a fundamental system common to the original Bantu tongue. The exception alluded to may be a method of forming the preterite tense, which seems to be shared by a great number of widely-spread Bantu languages. This may be illustrated by the Zulu tanda, love, which changes to tandile, have loved, did love. This -ile or -ili may become in other forms -idi, didi, -ire, -ine, but is always referable back to some form like -ili or ile, which is probably connected with the root li or di (ndi or ni), which means "to be" or "exist." The initial i in the particle -ile often affects the last or penultimate syllable of the verbal root, thereby causing one of the very rare changes which take place in this vocable. In many Bantu dialects the root pa (which means to give) becomes pele in the preterite (no doubt from an original pa-ile). Likewise the Zulu tandile is a contraction of tanda-ile.
Two other frequent changes of the terminal vowel of the common root are those from a (which is almost invariably the terminal vowel of Bantu verbs), (1), into e to form the subjunctive tense, (2) into i to give a negative sense in certain tenses. With these exceptions the vowel a almost invariably terminates verbal roots. The departures from this rule are so rare that it might almost be included among the elementary propositions determining the Bantu languages. And these instances when they occur are generally due (as in Swahili) to borrowed foreign words (Arabic, Portuguese or English). This point of the terminal a is the more interesting because, by changing the terminal vowel of the verbal root and possibly adding a personal prefix, one can make nouns from verbs. Thus in Luganda senyua is the verbal root for "to pardon." "A pardon" or "forgiveness" is ki-senyuo. "A pardoner" might be mu-senyui. In Swahili pataniša would be the verbal root for "conciliate"; mpatanaši is a "conciliator," and upatanišo is "conciliation." Another marked feature of Bantu verbs is their power of modifying the sense of the original verbal root by suffixes, the affixion of which modifies the terminal vowel and sometimes the preceding consonant of the root. Familiar forms of these variations and their usual meanings are as follows:—
Supposing an original Bantu root, tanda, to love; this may become
|tandwa||to be loved.|
|tandeka or tandika||to be lovable.|
|tandila or tandela||to love for, with, or by some other person.|
|tandiza (or -eza)||[brace]||to cause to love.|
|tandisa (or -esa)|
|tandana||to love reciprocally.|
The suffix -aka or -añga sometimes appears and gives a sense of continuance to the verbal root. Thus tanda may become tandaka in the sense of "to continue loving." The negative verbal particle in the Bantu languages may be traced back to an original ka, ta or sa, ki, ti or si in the Bantu mother-tongue. Apparently in the parent language this particle had already these alternative forms, which resemble those in some West African Negro languages. In the vast majority of the Bantu dialects at the present day, the negative particle in the verb (which nearly always coalesces with the pronominal particle) is descended from this ka, ta or sa, ki, ti or si, assuming the forms of ka, ga, ñga, sa, ta, ha, a, ti, si, hi, &c. It has coalesced to such an extent in some cases with the pronominal particle that the two are no longer soluble, and it is only by the existence of some intermediate forms (as in the Kongo language) that we are able to guess at the original separation between the two. Originally the negative particle ka, sa, &c., was joined to the pronominal particles, thus:—
|(Therefore Ka-ngi tanda = not I love.)|
|Ka-ku or ka-wu||not thou.|
|Ka-a||not he, she.|
In like manner sa would become sa-ngi, sa-wu, &c. But very early in the history of Bantu languages ka-ngi, or sa-ngi, became contracted into kai, sai, and finally, ki, si; ka-ku or ka-wu into ku; and kaa or saa have always been ka or sa. Sometimes in the modern languages the negative particle (such as ti or si) is used without any vestige of a pronoun being attached to it, and is applied indifferently to all the persons. Occasionally this particle has fallen out of use, and the negative is expressed (1) by stress or accent; (2) by suffix (traceable to a root -pe or -ko) answering to the French pas, and having the same sense; and (3) by the separate employment of an adverb. If not a few Bantu languages, the verb used in a negative sense changes its terminal -a to -i. The subjunctive is very frequently formed by changing the terminal -a to -e: thus, tanda = love; -tande = may love.
(H. H. J.)
- Bantu (literally Ba-ntu) is the most archaic and most widely spread term for “men,” “mankind," “people,” in these languages. It also indicates aptly the leading feature of this group of tongues, which is the governing of the unchangeable root by prefixes. The syllable -ntu is nowhere found now standing alone, but it originally meant “object," or possibly “person.” It is also occasionally used as a relative pronoun-“that." “that which," “he who.” Combined with different prefixes it has different meanings. Thus (in the purer forms of Bantu languages) muntu means "a man,” bantu means “men," kintu means “a thing," bintu “things,” kantu means “a little thing," tunm “little things," and so on. This term Bantu has been often criticized, but no one has supplied a better, simpler designation for this section of Negro languages, and the name has now been definitely consecrated by usage.
- In Luganda and other languages of Uganda and the Victoria Nyanza, and also in Runyoro on the Victoria Nile, the word for “fowl" is enkoko. In Ki-Swahili of Zanzibar it is kuku. In Zulu it is inkuku. In some of the Cameroon languages it is lokoko, ngoko, ngok, and on the Congo it is nkogo, nsusu. On the Zambezi it is nkuku; so also throughout the tribes of Lakes Nyasa and Tanganyika, and most dialects of South Africa.
- “From this statement are excepted those tongues classified as “semi-Bantu.” In some languages of the Lower Niger and of the Gold Coast the word for “fowl " is generally traceable to a root kuba. This form kuba also enters the Cameroon region, where it exists alongside of -koko. Kuba may have arisen independently, or have been derived from the Bantu kuku.
- Whence the many nyanza, nyanja, nyasa, mwonza, of African geography.
- In using the forms Uganda, Unyoro, the writer accepts the popular mis-spelling. These countries should be called Buganda and Bunyoro, and their languages Luganda and Runyoro.
- It is an important and recently discovered fact (delineated in the work of the Baptist missionaries and of the Austrian traveller Dr Franz Thonner) that the Congo at its northern and north-eastern bend, between the Rubi river and Stanle' Falls, lies outside the Bantu field. The Bandon a and Wamanga languages are not Bantu. They are allied to the Ilibuba-Momfu of the lturi and Nepoko, and also to the Mundu of the Egyptian Sudan. The Mundu group extends westward to the Ubangi river, as far south as 3° 30’ N. See George Grenfell and the Congo, by Sir Harry Johnston; and Dans la Grande Forét de l'Afr1'gue éguatoriale, by Franz Thonner (1899).
- These features are characteristic of almost all the Negro languages of Africa.
- This does not preclude the aspiration of consonants, or the occasional local change of a palatal into a guttural.
- As already mentioned, a somewhat similar concord is also present as regards the sufixes of the Fula and the Kiama (Tem) languages in Western Africa, and as regards the prefixes of the Timne language of Sierra Leone; it exists likewise in Hottentot and less markedly in many Aryan, Semitic and Hamitic tongues.
- An apparent but not a real exception to this rule is in the second person plural of the imperative mood, where an abbreviated form of the pronoun is afixed to the verb. Other phases of the verb may be occasionally emphasized by the repetition of the governing pronoun at the end.
- The full hypothetical forms of(the prefixes as joined with definite articles-Ngumu, Mbaba, Ngimi, Ngama and so on-are added in brackets. Forms very like these are met with still in the Mt. Elgon languages (Group No. 3) and in Subiya group (No. 32).
- This is prominently met with in East Africa, and also in the various Bechuana dialects of Central South Africa, where it takes the form of fi at the end of words.
- Or perhaps ñga-ba-ntu (afterwards na-ba-, aba-); the form figabantu is actually met with in Zulu-Kafflrz also ngumuntu.
- Likewise ba- may have meant “two” (Bantu root Bali=two); a dual first and then a plural.
- Wa- in Luganda, In Lusoga (north coast of Victoria Nyanza) Wa- becomes Fa (Gha).
- Mi is possibly a softening of ngi, ni; ngi becomes in some dialects nji, ndi, ni or mbi; there is in some of the coast Cameroon languages, and in the north-eastern Congo, a word mbi, mba for “I,” “me,” which seems to be borrowed from the Sudanian Mundu tongues. The possessive pronoun for the first person is devired from two forms, -ami and sangi (-am, -anguf -anji, -ambi, &c.).
- An exception to this rule is the verbal particle li or di, which means “to be."
- Or-ira, -era.
- This form may also appear as ša., as for instance aka= to be on fire becomes ata, to set on fire.
- In choosing this common root tanda, and applying it to the above various terminations, the writer is not prepared to say that it is associated with all of them in any one Bantu language. Although tanda is a common verb in Zulu, it has not in Zulu all these variations, and in some other language where it may by chance exhibit all the variations its own form is changed to londa or randa.