Bantu peoples

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Bantu languages: There are over 140 different Bantu languages.

The Bantu languages form a large category of African languages. Bantu also is used as a general label for 300-600 ethnic groups in Africa of speakers of Bantu languages, distributed from Cameroon east across Central Africa and Eastern Africa to Southern Africa. They form about 1/3 of Africa's total population of 1 billion (approximately 335,000,000).[citation needed][year needed]

The Bantu family is fragmented into hundreds of individual groups, none of them larger than a few million people (the largest being the Zulu with some 10 million). Swahili is a Bantu language with only 5-10 million native speakers but of super-regional importance as tens of millions are fluent second language speakers.



Bantu means the men or people. The word occurs in all Bantu languages, for example, it appears as wa-tu in Swahili, ba-to in Lingala, and aba-ntu in Zulu in shona as Van-hu

Origins and expansion

Current scholarly understanding places the ancestral proto-Bantu homeland near the southwestern modern boundary of Nigeria and Cameroon ca. 4,000 years ago (2000 BC), and regards the Bantu languages as a branch of the Niger-Congo language family.[4] This view represents a resolution of debates in the 1960s over competing theories advanced by Joseph Greenberg and Malcolm Guthrie, in favor of refinements of Greenberg's theory. Based on wide comparisons including non-Bantu languages, Greenberg argued that Proto-Bantu, the hypothetical ancestor of the Bantu languages, had strong ancestral affinities with a group of languages spoken in Southeastern Nigeria. He proposed that Bantu languages had spread east and south from there, to secondary centers of further dispersion, over hundreds of years.

Using a different comparative method focused more exclusively on relationships among Bantu languages, Guthrie argued for a single central African dispersal point spreading at a roughly equal rate in all directions. Subsequent research on loanwords for adaptations in agriculture and animal husbandry and on the wider Niger-Congo language family rendered that thesis untenable. In the 1990s Jan Vansina proposed a modification of Greenberg's ideas, in which dispersions from secondary and tertiary centers resembled Guthrie's central node idea, but from a number of regional centers rather than just one, creating linguistic clusters.[5]

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