Jarawan languages

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Southwest Cameroon, southeast Nigeria
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo
Map of the Jarawan languages.svg
The Jarawan languages shown within Nigeria and Cameroon

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 Guthrie's A.60 languages, which are part of Mbam.[2]


The classification of Jarawan according to Blench (2011) is:[3]


Due to contact with Chadic languages, Jarawan languages have "frozen" prefixes.[4] However, lexically, the Jarawan languages are more closely related to the Bantu languages; typological convergence with Chadic is due to contact.[4]

Previous studies[edit]

Blench (2006) presents the early research as follows: "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."[5]

According to Blench (2006): "Maddieson & Williamson (1975) represents the first attempt to synthesise this data on the position of these languages. Since that period, publications have been limited. . . . 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.


  • ALCAM 1984. Atlas linguistique du Cameroun. ACCT.
  • Blench, Roger. 2006. Jarawan Bantu: New Data and Its Relation to Bantu.
  • 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.
  • Gowers, W.F. 1907. 42 vocabularies of languages spoken in Bauchi Province, N. Nigeria. ms. National Archives, Kaduna.
  • Guthrie, M. 1969-71. Comparative Bantu. (4 vols.) Farnborough: Gregg.
  • Maddieson, I. and K. Williamson 1975. Jarawan Bantu. African Languages, 1:125-163.
  • Meek, C.K. 1925. The Northern Tribes of Nigeria. 2 vols. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Meek, C. K. 1931. Tribal Studies in Northern Nigeria. (2 vols) London: Kegan Paul.
  • Rueck, Michael J. Nengak Bako, Luther Hon, John Muniru, Linus Otronyi, and Zachariah Yoder 2009. Preliminary Impressions from the Sociolinguistic Survey of the Jar Dialects. ms. Jos.
  • Rueck, Michael J. Zachariah Yoder & Katarína Hannelova. 2007. Sociolinguistic Survey of the Mbula, Tambo, Bakopi, Gwamba, Bwazza, Kulung and Bille people, of Adamawa and Taraba States, Nigeria. ms. Jos.
  • Shimizu, K. 1983. Die Jarawan-Bantusprachen des Bundesstaates Bauchi, Nordnigeria. In Sprache Geschichte und Kultur in Afrika. R. Vossen & Claudi, U. (eds.) 291-301. Hamburg: Buske.
  • Strümpell, F. 1910. Vergleichendes Wörterverzeichnis der Heidensprachen Adamauas. Mit Vorbemerkungen von B. Struck. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie. XLII:444-488.
  • Thomas, N.W. 1925 The Languages. In: The Northern Tribes of Nigeria. C.K. Meek ed. 132-247. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Williamson, K. (1971) The Benue–Congo languages and Ijo. In Current Trends in Linguistics, 7 (pp. 245–306) ed. T. Sebeok.
  • Williamson, Kay 1972. Benue–Congo comparative wordlist: Vol.2. Ibadan: West African Linguistic Society.
  • Williamson, K., and K. Shimizu. 1968. Benue–Congo comparative wordlist, Vol. 1. Ibadan: West African Linguistic Society.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Jarawan". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Blench, Roger (2011). "'The membership and internal structure of Bantoid and the border with Bantu" (PDF). Berlin: Humboldt University. p. 31.
  3. ^ Blench, Roger (2011). "'The membership and internal structure of Bantoid and the border with Bantu" (PDF). Berlin: Humboldt University. p. 32.
  4. ^ a b Blench, Roger. 2007. Language families of the Nigerian Middle Belt and the historical implications of their distribution. Presented to the Jos Linguistic Circle in Jos, Nigeria, July 25, 2007.
  5. ^ Blench, Roger (2006). "Jarawan Bantu: New Data and Its Relation to Bantu" (PDF). p. 1.