David L. Schoenbrun: The Historical Reconstruction of Great Lakes Bantu Cultural Vocabulary [PDF]


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Etymologies and Distributions
SUGIA Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika – Supplements Volume 9

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351 pp.
1 map, 1 folding table, numerous tables and charts

Text language: English

This monograph is the first comparative etymological dictionary offered for a sub-group (Great Lakes Bantu, Uganda / Rwanda / Tanzania) of African languages which includes a full accounting of that sub-group’s linguistic and ethnographic sources. Whereas previous works have concentrated fruitfully on different aspects of comparative reconstruction (Nurse/Hinnebusch 1993, Ehret 1995, Guthrie 1967–1971, Meeussen 1980), this work makes arguments about the semantic histories of some 400 words based on the widest possible collection of words and meanings from 20th century sources.

This wide collecting allows the reader to come to their own conclusions about semantic changes and their linguistic and social determinants. It will thus form an important source both for the language history of Bantu-speaking Africa and for the social history of Bantu-speakers. It constitutes the largest single repository of language evidence for Great Lakes Bantu, a subgroup of some 54 languages spoken around Lake Victoria and in the Kivu Rift Valley. Speakers of Great Lakes Bantu undertook major historical projects including the development of mixed farming, specializations in intensive banana farming and pastoralism, the early production of iron, and the creation of elaborate kingdoms. It will serve also as a point of reference for other researchers working elsewhere in Bantu-speaking Africa.

The 406 glosses listed in the comparative material are grouped into 7 semantic fields: 1. Material Culture and Technology, 2. Food, 3. Social Relations and Spatial Organization, 4. Politic and Wealth, 5. Religion and Health, 6. Philosophy, 7. Miscellaneous.

A settlement history and language classification of this region under research has been published in the following journal issue, furthermore you will find a couple of grammatical descriptions of Bantu languages of this region (Gusii, Kiha, Kinyarwanda, Kuria, Luganda, Lusaamia, Nyamwezi, Runyoro, Cushitic: Iraqw):

Under these links you will also find further studies on the conceptualization of nature, environment, water and rain in Africa:

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