Eastern Bantoid Languages

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Eastern Bantoid Languages


a group of languages spoken along the Cross and Benue rivers in Nigeria and in Cameroon. The languages of this group, which includes Tiv, Basa, Birom, Ibibio, Efik, Batu, the Bamileke subgroup, and several smaller languages, display a certain unity in vocabulary and phonetic and grammatical structure. The most typical feature of the grammatical system, and the one assumed as the basis of all the classifications, is the existence of a system of noun classes that are expressed by prefixes and sometimes by suffixes. Agreement of these noun classes is realized to different degrees among the various languages of this group. Thus, the Tiv language has agreement of adjectives and pronouns according to the prefixes of the nouns, but in the Bamileke languages noun classes play no role in agreement. On the level of phonology the Eastern Bantoid languages are characterized by the presence of a closed syllable with any consonant final, a feature that sets these languages off from Bantu proper, where a closed syllable can have only a sonant final. Semantically distinctive musical tones have been noted in several Eastern Bantoid languages.

According to the classification of the American scholar J. Greenberg, the Eastern Bantoid languages (to which he also relates the Bantu languages) belong to the Benue-Congo group, which forms part of the Niger-Congo branch of the Congo-Kordofanian family of languages. According to his classification the following languages are considered Bantoid proper: Tiv, Bitare, Batu, Ndoro, Mambila, Bute, and the Bantu languages. The existing classifications should not be considered as final.


Johnston, H. H. A Comparative Study of the Bantu and Semi-Bantu Languages, vols. 1-2. Oxford, 1919-1922.
Westermann, D., and M. A. Bryan. Languages of West Africa. Oxford, 1952.
Greenberg, J. H. The Languages of Africa. The Hague, 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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