Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/687

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THE AFRICAN PYGMIES.

of the "clicks" has often been insisted on;[1] another distinguishing characteristic is the existence (at least in the Hottentot language) of grammatical gender—a feature wholly absent from the Bantu tongues. The Bushman language is said to be monosyllabic. The Hottentots, however, now mostly speak Dutch—or that variety of it to be heard at the Cape—and probably both languages are on the way to extinction. It is said that "a missionary, being invited by the Government to send books in the Kora[2] dialect to be printed, remarked that his experience was that it was easier to teach the young to read Dutch, and that the old could not learn at all."[3]

An examination of the list of Batwa words collected by Dr. Wolf, as compared with his Baluba and Bakuba vocabularies, and the Congo and Swahili languages, has convinced me that the Batwa, if they have not adopted and modified the speech of their neighbors, have at any rate adopted a great many Bantu words into their own. The numbers up to ten, for instance, are identical (with slight differences of pronunciation) in the Batwa and Baluba languages. But as yet the materials for comparison are too scanty for any definite statement to be made. The few words elicited from the dwarf met by Stanley were, as Mr. Johnston points out, decidedly Bantu; but we need not conclude from this that the Pygmy race consists merely of outcast and degenerate Bantus. What more likely than that a small and isolated tribe, who, like the Batwa, frequently had friendly intercourse with surrounding and more powerful tribes, should, to a certain extent, adopt the language of the latter?

Surveying the Pygmy race as a whole, we find them—shorn of the mythical and magical glamour with which distance and mystery had invested them—not so very different, after all, from other human beings, but still sufficiently interesting. There is a shock of disillusion in passing from the elves and trolls of a past age—not to mention Alberic of the Mbelung's Hoard—to the worthy but prosaic Lapps of the present day; and the "little people" of whom Bwana Abed entertained such a vivid and unpleasant recollection were doubtless minimized in stature by the retrospective imagination. No well-authenticated adult Mtwa, Akka, or Mbatti seems to be much less than four feet six inches; while Dr. Petermann thinks that the Pygmies, on the whole, run about a head shorter than the average negro. This may be disappointing to those who are ever on the lookout for the marvelous—by which they mean the abnormal—but the facts as they stand pre-


  1. Some of the Kafir languages possess these clicks, but they have undoubtedly been borrowed.
  2. Spoken on the Orange River.
  3. Modern Languages of Africa. By R. N. Cust.