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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.

Bantu 1.png

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.[1] 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.

  1. 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.