Bantu languages

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Bantu languages,

group of African languages forming a subdivision of the Benue-Niger division of the Niger-Congo branch of the Niger-Kordofanian language family (see African languagesAfrican languages,
geographic rather than linguistic classification of languages spoken on the African continent. Historically the term refers to the languages of sub-Saharan Africa, which do not belong to a single family, but are divided among several distinct linguistic stocks.
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). Bantu contains hundreds of languages that are spoken by 120 million Africans in the Congo Basin, Angola, the Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya. The word Bantu means "the people" and is made up of the stem -ntu ("person") and the plural prefix ba-.

The total number of Bantu languages is uncertain. The most important is Swahili (see Swahili languageSwahili language,
member of the Bantu group of African languages (see African languages and Bantu languages). Swahili is spoken by 30 million people, chiefly in Tanzania, Kenya, Congo (Kinshasa), Burundi, and Uganda, and serves as a lingua franca for additional millions in E
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), spoken as a first language by more than 30 million people, chiefly in Kenya, Tanzania, Congo (Kinshasa), and Uganda. As the chief trade language of E Africa, it is understood by perhaps an additional 20 million. Other significant Bantu languages include Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, and Setswana, which are spoken respectively by 9 million, 7 million, 5 million, and 4 million persons, all living in South Africa, Lesotho, and Botswana; Makua and Thonga, the languages respectively of 4 million and 3 million people, chiefly in Mozambique; Bemba, the language of over 3 million in Zambia and Congo (Kinshasa); Shona, with 8 million speakers in Zimbabwe and Mozambique; Kikuyu, native to 6 million in Kenya; Ganda, the language of 4 million in Uganda; Ruanda, spoken by 8 million in Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo (Kinshasa); Rundi, the language of 6 million in Burundi and Congo (Kinshasa); Mbundu, native to 6 million in Angola; Luba, with 7 million speakers in Congo (Kinshasa); Kongo, the language of 4 million in Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Kinshasa), and Angola; and Lingala, spoken by 6 million in Congo (Kinshasa).

All of the Bantu languages are tonal, except perhaps Swahili. Tones are used to indicate differences in meaning. Grammatically, nouns belong to a number of classes, each of which has its pair of prefixes, one to denote the singular and the other the plural. Linguists have not yet discovered a logical basis for most of the many different noun classes. Although they are not based on sex, these classes have been compared to the genders of Indo-European tongues. The class prefix of a noun is attached to every word that is connected grammatically with this noun, whether adjective, verb, or other part of speech. The following example from Swahili illustrates the nature of such agreement: m-thu m-zuri, "handsome man," but wu-thu wu-zuri, "handsome men." The Bantu verb consists of a stem to which are added one or more prefixes (with the exception of the imperative) and also one or more suffixes. The verbal suffixes relate to person, number, negation, tense, voice, and mood. Suffixes added to certain stems can form nouns and verbs, especially of a derivational nature.


See M. A. Bryan, ed., The Bantu Languages of Africa (1959); M. Guthrie, The Classification of the Bantu Languages (1948, repr. 1967) and Comparative Bantu (4 vol., 1967–71).

References in periodicals archive ?
The language I have in mindis Kirundi; a Bantu language of such mind shattering complexity (at least to me) that I feel sure that whoever can display a working knowledge of it in under a year should automatically qualify for the plum and mundane employment offerings in this find land of ours.
15] He was always impressed by African languages, and in 1950 said, "I defy anyone to study a Bantu language thoroughly and retain an opinion that Africans are innately inferior to Europeans in intellect.
Kiswahili is a Bantu language spoken by more than 80 million people mainly in East and Central Africa (Bosha 1993:45); while Arabic belongs to the Semitic group and is mainly spoken in the Middle East.
The Bantu language Nyakyusa in (11e) has a lexical process whereby certain morphemes beginning with a high front vocoid cause the spirantization of /t d/ to [s] (Labroussi 1999: 341), e.
There were two new languages to be learned--Swahili and Luhaya--Luhaya a Bantu language like Zulu but quite different phonetically, Swahili the lingua franca of the region.
It is not the purpose of this paper to delve into the origin and development of Kiswahili, but suffice it to say that Kiswahili is typically a Bantu language (about 40% of its lexicon is Bantu) which borrowed and continue to borrow words and terminologies from other languages to enrich its lexicon.
of California-Berkeley) offers a detailed description of the major syntactic structures of Chichewa, a language of the Bantu language group in the Benue-Congo branch of the Niger- Kordofania language family which is spoken in parts of east, central and southern Africa.
Most scholars have therefore argued that it is a Bantu language, although there have been claims to the contrary.
It may be surprising to find that Czech and a Bantu language such as Zulu are in a certain respect formally closer than Czech and English.
Such cases provide a unique window of opportunity for exploring the various language-learning strategies children use, whether these exhibit certain "innate" semantic or syntactic predispositions, or whether more general learning mechanisms, such as statistical inference, are involved This paper examines children's acquisition of double-object applicative constructions in the Bantu language Sesotho, where evidence for the order of postverbal objects is absent from the input, due in part to the high instance of "unspecified object deletion," or object ellipsis.
The Southern Ndebele data offer the most systematic evidence (on the comparative level) of all the languages in the South-Eastern Bantu language zone for the postulation of an underlying stative copulative verb stem -si in the negative copulative forms of Zulu.
The DNA also shines light on Africans' genetic makeup before speakers of an early Bantu language spread from West Africa into central and southern regions some 3,000 years ago.