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Linguistics in the Corridor: A Review of Research on the Bantu Languages of South west Tanzania, North east Zambia, and North Malawi

Linguistics in the Corridor: A Review of Research on the Bantu Languages of South west Tanzania, North east Zambia, and North Malawi

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Published by Martin Walsh
Citation: Walsh, M. T. & Swilla, I. N. 2000. Linguistics in the Corridor: A Review of Research on the Bantu Languages of South west Tanzania, North east Zambia, and North Malawi. Paper presented to the international colloquium on Kiswahili in 2000, Institute of Kiswahili Research, University of Dar es Salaam, 20 23 March 2000.
Citation: Walsh, M. T. & Swilla, I. N. 2000. Linguistics in the Corridor: A Review of Research on the Bantu Languages of South west Tanzania, North east Zambia, and North Malawi. Paper presented to the international colloquium on Kiswahili in 2000, Institute of Kiswahili Research, University of Dar es Salaam, 20 23 March 2000.

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Published by: Martin Walsh on Apr 07, 2009
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10/17/2011

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LINGUISTICS IN THE CORRIDOR:
A REVIEW OF RESEARCH ON THE BANTU LANGUAGES OFSOUTH-WEST TANZANIA, NORTH-EAST ZAMBIA,AND NORTH MALAWI
 
Martin T. Walsh and Imani N. Swilla
[expanded version of a paper prepared for theInternational Colloquium on
Kiswahili in 2000
,Institute of Kiswahili Research, University of Dar es Salaam,Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 20-23 March 2000]_________________________
DRAFT FOR COMMENTNOT TO BE QUOTED WITHOUT PERMISSION
Dr. Martin T. WalshSocial Sciences DepartmentNatural Resources InstituteUniversity of GreenwichDr. Imani N. SwillaDepartment of Foreign Languages and LinguisticsUniversity of Dar es Salaam
 
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LINGUISTICS IN THE CORRIDOR: A REVIEW OF RESEARCH ON THEBANTU LANGUAGES OF SOUTH-WEST TANZANIA, NORTH-EASTZAMBIA, AND NORTH MALAWIMartin T. Walsh and Imani N. Swilla1 INTRODUCTION
More than half a century has passed since Daryll Ford and Ida Ward wrote thefollowing words in their ‘Foreword’ to Clement Doke’s survey of Bantu studies,published by the International African Institute in 1945:“…this survey of Bantu studies is necessarily incomplete and the classificationadopted is only tentative. The Institute considers, however, that such apreliminary study of this very wide and complex field will be of considerablevalue to all students of African languages; and it will have served a most usefulpurpose, if, as a result of its publication, gaps in existing knowledge are mademore apparent, and further problems can be tackled more effectively. Those inpossession of additional material, published or unpublished, will, it is hoped, beencouraged to make their information and hypotheses available as soon aspossible.”Our aim in writing the present paper is similar, if on a considerably more modestscale. Indeed, it is some measure of the development in Bantu studies over the pastfive and a half decades that we can now present a review of research into a group of languages which received no more than a few scattered lines in Doke’s study (1945:31, 38, 40, 65-66). These are the Eastern Bantu languages spoken in the so-called‘Corridor’ between Lakes Nyasa and Tanganyika. In this paper we attempt to identifymajor gaps in our understanding of these languages, in the hope that this willencourage others to help fill these gaps.
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 We also hope that this will encourage researchers to think similarly about othergroups of languages and dialects, including Swahili. Doke devoted an impressive tenpages of his survey to a discussion of the literature on Swahili, plus a few paragraphsto the languages that we now recognise as Swahili’s closest relatives (1945: 46-48,55-65). An analogous review today could easily fill a book the size of Doke’s slimvolume. The bibliography of Nurse and Hinnebusch’s linguistic history of Swahiliand Sabaki - which is concerned only with one aspect of this small group of languages– is itself 27 pages long (1993: 727-753). Nonetheless, and as Nurse and Hinnebuschmake abundantly clear, our knowledge of the dialects of Swahili, not to mention theother languages and dialects which comprise Sabaki, is extremely uneven (1993: 3,5-19). From this and other points of view, we would suggest that general lessonslearned from a review of linguistic research in the Corridor have a much widerapplicability.
 
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2 CLASSIFICATION IN THE CORRIDOR
The Nyasa-Tanganyika Corridor is, as the name implies, shorthand for the regionwhich lies between Lake Nyasa in the south-east and Lake Tanganyika in the north-west. Lake Rukwa lies in the north of the Corridor, roughly half-way between thetwo larger lakes. As an ethnographic and linguistic zone, the Corridor straddles theborder region between three different countries, and includes large parts of south-westTanzania, north-east Zambia, and the north of Malawi.Early ethnographers and linguists made some progress towards recognising thecoherence of the Corridor and its constituent peoples and languages (e.g. Fülleborn1906; Johnston 1922; Guthrie 1948; 1967-72; Tew 1950). It was not until the secondhalf of the 20th century, however, that our current understanding of the Corridorbegan to take shape. Monica Wilson’s seminal survey of the
The Peoples of the Nyasa-Tanganyika Corridor 
, published in 1958, not only introduced the basic termsof the classifications that we now use, but has also had a continuing influence onresearchers studying the people and languages of the Corridor.Wilson’s definition of the Nyasa-Tanganyika Corridor was much broader thantoday’s. She identified five major groups of ‘peoples’ in the Corridor: ‘theNyakyusa-Ngonde, the Hehe-Bena, the Nyiha, the Tumbuka, and the people whodispersed from Mwika (i.e. Namwanga, Mambwe, Lungu, and Fipa), between whomthere are clearly marked differences’ (1958: 6). Although Wilson continued to tinkerwith the composition of different groups, she retained the basic five in all of hersubsequent formulations (1972: 137, map 9.1; 1977: 14, 142). Language was onlyone of the criteria by which these groups were identified and Wilson made no attemptto link them in a wider genetic classification. In some respects the limits of Wilson’sCorridor were defined as much by distance from the Nyakyusa and Ngonde she andGodfrey Wilson had studied than by any strict application of criteria of similarity anddifference. Nonetheless, her definition and classification of some of the ‘dialectgroups’ which combine to form her Corridor ‘peoples’ has still to be superseded.Wilson’s ‘Corridor’ was given sharper linguistic definition, and its basic frametransformed into a genetic classification, by linguists working in the 1970s and 1980s.Bernd Heine, in his classification of Bantu based on 100-word lists, defined a‘Fipa-Konde’ sub-group (11.919) of ‘Eastern Highland’ Bantu (11.9). ‘Fipa-Konde’was divided in turn into ‘Fipa’ (11.9191), ‘Nyiha’ (11.9192), and ‘Nyekyosa’(Nyakyusa, 11.9193) (1972, cited by Polomé 1980: 18). Heine’s ‘Fipa-Konde’ wasessentially the same as Wilson’s ‘Nyasa-Tanganyika Corridor’ without herHehe-Bena and Tumbuka.Derek Nurse, in an early classification based on lexical data he and Gérard Philippsonhad collected at the University of Dar es Salaam, was rather more conservative. Heidentified basically the same low-level groups as Heine, but only cautiously suggestedthat they might be joined with other groups at a much higher level (1979: 106-107).By 1983, however, Nurse had explicitly recognised a ‘Corridor’ sub-group equivalentto Heine’s ‘Fipa-Konde’ (1983: 9, 11-12). Nurse (1988) subsequently examined thecase for this Bantu sub-group in more detail, using both lexical and phonologicalevidence. Like Heine, Nurse divided his ‘Corridor’ into three, adapting MonicaWilson’s group names for the purpose:
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