Wilhelm J.G. Möhlig: The Bantu Languages of the Kenya Coast – Aspects of Comparison and Contact [PDF]


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EALD East African Languages and Dialects Volume 31

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255 pp.
5 colour maps, 57 colour tables, 163 b/w tables

Text language: English

In the focus of this study are lexical, phonetic, and grammatical data that were mainly collected at the Kenyan coast between the years 1970 and 1990. The corpus consists of about 50,000 lexical entries in the form of tape recordings and written transcriptions based on a standardised word list of 600 items. These are arranged in 26 semantic categories starting from parts of the body, concepts of hygiene, and motions up to terms of quality like ‘big’, ‘bad’, ‘new_ etc.

The languages under research are in detail (according to Guthrie): Ilwana (E.701), Pokomo (E.71), Malalulu (Upper Pokomo), Malanchini (Lower Pokomo), Mijikenda (Northern Mijikenda (E.72): Giryama (E.72a), Kauma (E.72b), Chonyi (E.73c), Jibana (E.73F), Kambe (E.72G), Ribe (E.72H), Southern Mijikenda (E.73-732): Digo (E.73), Duruma Rabai) and the Northern, Central and Southern Swahili dialects. The following outline emerges:


Ilwana (E.701)

Pokomo (E.71)

– Upper Pokomo
Milalulu / Ndura-Ndera / Zubaki

– Lower Pokomo
Buu-Kalindi / Dzunza / Kulesa / Mwina / Ngatana / Mijikenda (E.72-73)

– North Mijikenda (E.72)
Giryama (E.72a) / Kauma (E.72b) / Chonyi (E.73c) / Rabai (E.73e) / Jibana (E.73F) / Kambe (E.72G) / Ribe (E.72H)

– South Mijikenda (E.73-732)
Digo (E.73)

Kenya Swahili

– Northern Kenya Swahili dialects
Amu / Miini / Pate / Siu / Tikuu

– Central Kenya Swahili dialects
Jomvu / Mvita

– Southern Kenya Swahili dialects
Chwaka / Shirazi / Vumba-Vanga

The 600-word list provides sufficient lexical and phonological data to serve all dialectological questions like the definition of dialect centres, dialect boundaries, distances between the local languages and even dialect strata at different historical levels of abstraction. In addition to this material, the basic grammatical features (nominal classes, pronouns, verbal structure) were recorded.

In the Coastal Bantu languages of Kenya, migration and neighbourly contact are the main impulses of linguistic development. The kind of language contact in terms of commercial interests, the social level of the speakers as well as the intensity and duration of contact turn out to be the most decisive parameters of mutual or unilateral influence and finally of individual language formation.

The basic data are here present in three descriptive chapters on phonology (chapter 2), lexicon (chapter 3) and grammar (chapter 4) followed by three analytical chapters according to the different analytical processes of dialectometry (chapter 5), comparative Bantu in a perspective from below (chapter 6) and contact linguistics (chapter 7).

Under these links you will find research examples of dialectometrical methods and grammatical descriptions, text collections and dictionaries of further eastern, south-eastern and south-western African Bantu languages and cultures:

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