traditional history and culture. Are the various ‘dialect groups’ here classed as Nyiha indeedsimilar in language and custom?” (1958: 61-62)
When Wilson wrote these words she appeared to be unaware of the collection of 14northern Lambya texts published by Joseph Busse (1939/40) and the same author’sforthcoming monograph on the language of the Nyiha of Mbozi district (1960).Nonetheless, her survey did stimulate a significant body of subsequent ethnographicand historical research among the Nyiha of Mbozi (the published results of whichinclude Brock 1963, 1966, 1968; Knight 1970, 1974; Slater 1976; and Gartrell 1979).This research, together with anthropological work on the Fipa, has also added (thoughnot much) to our knowledge of the Nyika who live to the west of Lake Rukwa (Willis1966). The precolonial history of the Lambya in Malawi has been studied morerecently as part of a wider investigation of the history of the Ngonde kingdom(Kalinga 1974; 1978). The Malila and most of the other groups mentioned by Wilson,however, remain largely unstudied, and, although some of their linguisticrelationships are now clearer, we are still in no position to provide a definitive answerto Wilson’s closing question.
The language of the Malila has never been subject to detailed investigation, thoughsufficient information (mainly lexical) has been collected to provide an indication of its position in a genetic classification of the better-known Bantu languages of south-west Tanzania.
Unfortunately, most of the linguistic data on Malila which has been used to classifythe language remain unpublished. The only published lexical material is a list of 22plant names recorded by the botanists Cribb and Leedal (1982:
.). Their list,together with botanical identifications, is reproduced in a later section of this paper.Given the manner of its collection, it is unlikely that these terms are recorded with anyphonological accuracy. Using his own lexical material, Derek Nurse has recorded thereflexes of proto-Bantu consonants in Malila (‘Malela’) and three other ‘Nyika’languages: Mbozi Nyiha, northern Lambya, and Tambo (1988: 104). In this table heshows Malila as a seven vowel language with no contrast between long and shortvowels. However, it should be noted that not all of the entries for other languages inthis table (which is incomplete) are confirmed by other sources, and it shouldtherefore be treated as no more than a provisional guide to Malila phonology.
Malila was not mentioned in Harry Johnston’s
A Comparative Study of the Bantu and Semi-Bantu Languages
(1922), although he had earlier travelled across the Nyasa-Tanganyika Corridor and collected data on some of its languages. Johnston classifiedMalila’s closest neighbours in his Group M, ‘The North-West Nyasa Languages’, agrouping which includes a selection of languages from all three Corridor sub-groups(as currently defined) as well as Tumbuka and related languages in what is nowMalawi (1922: 59-63). Guthrie (cited in Polomé 1980: 17) also classified Malila