Jarawan languages

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Southwest Cameroon, southeast Nigeria
Linguistic classification: Niger–Congo
Glottolog: jara1262[1]

Jarawan is a dialect cluster that is closely related to, or perhaps a branch of, the Bantu languages. Blench (2011) says that it almost certainly belongs with the A.60 languages, which are part of Mbam.


The classification of Jarawan according to Blench (2011) is:


The Jarawan Bantu languages have always been something of a poor relation to Bantu proper. Scattered across northern Cameroun and east-central Nigeria, they remain poorly documented and poorly characterised. The first record of Jarawan Bantu is Koelle (1854), whose Dṣạ̄rāwa probably corresponds to modern-day Bankal. Gowers (1907) has six wordlists of Jarawan Bantu (Bomborawa, Bankalawa, Gubawa, Jaku, Jarawa, and Wurkunawa) include in his survey of the largely Chadic languages of the Bauchi area. Strümpell (1910) has a wordlist of the Jarawan Bantu language Mboa, formerly spoken on the Cameroun/CAR border near Meiganga. Strümpell (1922) and Baudelaire (1944) are the only records of Nagumi, based around Natsari, SE of Garoua in northern Cameroun. Johnston (1919: 716 ff.) assigned the language recorded by Koelle to a "Central-Bauci" one of his "Semi-Bantu" language groups. Thomas (1925, 1927) recognised the Bantu affinities of the Nigerian Jarawan Bantu languages, but Doke (1947) and Guthrie (1969–71) make no reference to Jarawan Bantu, and the latest reference book on Bantu also exclude it (Nurse & Philippson 2003). Some Jarawan Bantu languages are listed in the Benue–Congo Comparative wordlist (henceforth BCCW) (Williamson & Shimizu 1968; Williamson 1973) and a student questionnaire at the University of Ibadan in the early 1970s provided additional sketchy data on others.

Maddieson & Williamson (1975) represents the first attempt to synthesise this data on the position of these languages. Since that period, publications have been limited. Kraft (1981), although principally concerned with Chadic, includes lengthy wordlists of Bankal and Jaku wordlist in a rather doubtful transcription. An M.A. thesis on Jar provides a phonological sketch and wordlist of one Jarawan lect. There is also the unpublished grammar and dictionary of Ira McBride (n.d. a,b) prepared in the 1920s and so far unpublished . Shimizu (1983) presented an overview of some nearly extinct lects in Bauchi State. This seems to have been a prelude to a lengthier, more data-oriented publication that has never appeared. Lukas and Gerhardt (1981) analyse some rather hastily collected data on Mbula, while Gerhardt (1982) published an analysis of some of this new data and memorably named the Jarawan Bantu "the Bantu who turned back". Gerhardt (1982) provides data on verbal extensions in Mama and Kantana. Blench (2006) likewise classified them as Bantu languages. Ulrich Kleinwillinghöfer has made available a comparative wordlist of six Jarawan Bantu lects; Zaambo (Dukta), Bwazza, Mbula, Bile, Duguri and Kulung, collected in the early 1990s as part of the SFB 268. Wycliffe Nigeria has conducted two surveys of Jarawan Bantu groups in Nigeria, the Mbula-Bwazza (Rueck et al. 2007) and the Jar cluster (Rueck et al. 2009) providing much new and more accurate data in the status of Jarawan Bantu in Nigeria.


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Jarawan". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 


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  • Gerhardt, L. 1982. Jarawan Bantu: The mistaken identity of the Bantu who turned north. Afrika und Übersee, LXV:75-95.
  • Gerhardt, L. 1988. A note on verbal extensions in Jarawan Bantu. Journal of West African Languages, XVIII,2:3-8.
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