Baka language

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Not to be confused with Baka language (South Sudan).
Native to Cameroon, Gabon; minor groups separate in the Central African Republic
Ethnicity Baka people
Native speakers
50–60,000  (1998–2007)[1]
  • Sere–Mba
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
bkc – Baka
gdi – Gundi (Ngundi)
gnz – Ganzi
bme – Massa (Limassa)
nmj – Ngombe
Glottolog baka1271[2]

Baka (also called Be-bayaga, Be-bayaka, and Bibaya de L’est) is a dialect cluster of Ubangian languages spoken by the Baka Pygmies of Cameroon and Gabon. The people are ethnically close to the Aka, the two together called the Mbenga (Bambenga), but the languages are not related apart from some vocabulary dealing with the forest economy, which suggests the Aka may have shifted to Bantu from a language like Baka about 1500 CE.

Some 30% of Baka vocabulary is not Ubangian. Much of this concerns a specialized forest economy, such as words for edible plants, medicinal plants, and honey collecting, and has been posited as the remnant of an ancestral Pygmy language which has otherwise vanished.[3] However, apart from some words shared with the Aka, there is no evidence for a wider linguistic affiliation with any of the other Pygmy peoples.[4]

It is unclear if four minor varieties are mutually intelligible with Baka proper. They are Gundi (Ngundi), Ganzi, Massa (Limassa), and Ngombe. Most Massa have shifted to Gundi, which is spoken by 9,000 people.


  1. ^ Baka at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Gundi (Ngundi) at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Ganzi at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Massa (Limassa) at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Ngombe at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Baka–Gundi". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Serge Bahuchet, 1993, History of the inhabitants of the central African rain forest: perspectives from comparative linguistics. In C.M. Hladik, ed., Tropical forests, people, and food: Biocultural interactions and applications to development. Paris: Unesco/Parthenon.
  4. ^ Blench (in press)

External links[edit]