Bantu languages

Also found in: Wikipedia.

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.
..... Click the link for more information.
). 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
..... Click the link for more information.
), 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 ?
I say that the name Baraka is appropriate to our theme today because, in Kiswahili and some other Bantu languages, the word Baraka refers to a 'blessing', as a form of it does in most of the Semitic languages from which we have borrowed it.
Linguists explore the wide variation of the conjoint/disjoint alternation in the different Bantu languages.
1078208) spread of agricultural groups speaking Indo-European or Bantu languages may have changed the structure of populations and the languages spoken across huge areas of Europe and Africa, respectively.
The Swahili people had mixed Arab and African parentage and the language itself was based on local Bantu languages, Arabic, Persian and even Portuguese, German and English.
Unfortunately, the very first page of the book contains an error of information or transcription; in order to demonstrate how closely related the structure of Swahili (nouns) is to that of other Bantu languages, the authors erroneously claim that the word for person/people in Kikuyu (Gikuyu), a language spoken in Kenya, is muntulabato, whereas in fact the correct equivalent is mundulandu.
However, emerging linguistic evidence now seems to suggest that the term may have originated from the Bantu languages of Southern Africa that include: Shona, Isindebele, Zulu, Xhosa, Sesotho and Tswana among others (cf.
Mandela exemplified the philosophy of "Ubuntu," a word that has its origins in the Bantu languages of southern Africa and which expresses an African worldview.
At least 176 young people were killed in Soweto township 27 years ago this month during a youth protest against the apartheid regime's ban against teaching local Bantu languages.
The most frequent type of noun class system--which was found in 31/34 languages--has more than five distinctions and is generally typical of Atlantic and Bantu languages.
Other studies on Bantu languages provide evidence that the subject position is topical or definite, anti-focus or does not accommodate indefinites that are restricted to the postverbal position (Louwrens 1981; Louwrens 1991; Bresnan 1994; Zerbian 20064; Zerbian 2007; Halpert 2008; Zeller 2008).
A vast amount of literature exists on the topic of object markers in languages of the world and in Bantu languages in particular.