Baka language

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Native toCameroon, Gabon; minor groups separate in the Central African Republic
EthnicityBaka people
Native speakers
(70,000 cited 1988–2010)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
bkc – Baka
gdi – Gundi (Ngundi)
gnz – Ganzi
bme – Massa (Limassa)

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 specialised 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 Gundi (Ngundi), Ganzi and Massa (Limassa), are mutually intelligible with Baka proper. Most Massa have shifted to Gundi, which is spoken by 9,000 people.[1]

The Ngombe tribe speaks Gundi. It may have been confused in the literature with the Ngombe population speaking the Bangandu language.



Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Labio-
Plosive plain p t k
voiced b d ɡ
prenasalized m͡b n͡d ŋ͡ɡ
Fricative plain ɸ s
voiced β
Affricate plain k͡p
voiced d͡z ɡ͡b
prenasalized nd͡z ŋɡ͡b
Lateral l
Nasal m n ɲ
Approximant j w


Front Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a



  1. ^ a b Baka at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Gundi (Ngundi) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Ganzi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Massa (Limassa) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Baka–Gundi". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  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)
  5. ^ Paulin, Pascale (2010). Les Baka du Gabon dans une dynamique de transformations culturelles.

External links[edit]