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.

Contents

Name

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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