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paper presented to the 34th Colloquium on African Languages and Linguistics (CALL 34), Leiden University, 23-25 August 2004

Variability and Compounding of Affixes in Hehe Animal Names (Tanzania)
Martin T. Walsh1
Department of Social Anthropology University of Cambridge

Introduction Noun class affixation in Bantu languages can be both substitutive and additive. The substitution of one noun class prefix for another is the most typical process used to signal pluralization and other changes of meaning. The addition of a second prefix to a word already formed with a prefix is also common, though generally restricted to particular contexts that vary by language (Maho 1999: 57-60).
Process Substitutive NPx + stem > NPy + stem Additive NPx + stem > NPy + NPx + stem Example Swahili m-ti ‘tree’ > mi-ti ‘trees’ NP3 + -ti > NP4 + -ti Swahili ji-ti ‘large stick’ > ma-ji-ti ‘large sticks’ NP5 + -ti > NP6 + NP5 + -ti

The additive process usually involves no more than two prefixes, one tacked onto another. In this paper I present a case in which the additive process has no such limit, but can produce complex nouns by stacking up more than two noun class prefixes and other miscellaneous affixes (Meeussen’s ‘medials’). The language concerned is Hehe, and this runaway additive process is most fully developed in the names of different kinds of animals (excluding humans). There are a number of other interesting features to this case: the process is not only highly productive but also subject to local variation as well as manipulation by informants, resulting in the innovation of both simple and compound affixes. My description and analysis of these features is necessarily preliminary, but I hope will provide some signposts for further research. The Hehe Language: Past and Present Research
There is no doubt that Kihehe is a Bantu language lacking any peculiar or particularly interesting features (Redmayne 1964: 37)

Hehe (ikihehe, Guthrie’s G62) is spoken by around three-quarters of a million people, most of whom live in Iringa, Kilolo and Mufindi districts in south-central Tanzania.2 Nurse classifies Hehe together with Bena (G63), Sangu (G61), Wanji (G66), Kinga (G65), Kisi (G67), Pangwa (G64) and Manda (N11) in his Southern Highlands subgroup (1988, 1999). It is especially close to Bena, and these two are sometimes treated as forming a dialect continuum (Priebusch 1935;
E-mail address: Population estimate based on figures in the online 14th edition of the Ethnologue and Tanzania’s 2002 Population and Housing Census (see and
2 1

Redmayne 1964: 37-38; Nurse 1979: 114-115). Regional dialects of Hehe can be distinguished on the basis of (at least) phonetic and lexical differences: these include local varieties spoken by the Sungwa and other people of the Udzungwa Mountains (Madumulla 1995: 9), and the speech of the Kosisamba of the Rift Valley, whose historical neighbours included Sangu, Kimbu (F24) and Gogo (G11) speakers. The Hehe were not united politically until the second half of the 19th century (Redmayne 1968: 37-44; Redmayne & Ndulute 1970: 795): since then, however, the central dialect of Kalenga – the seat of the Hehe chiefs – has been spreading at the expense of other varieties. Despite work by linguists and others since the late 19th century (e.g. Last 1885; Velten 1899; Velten 1899; Spiss 1900; Dempwolff 1908; 1911/12; 1914; Redmayne 1969; Redmayne & Ndulute 1970; Mudemu undated; Nurse 1979; Crema 1987: Walsh & Moyer 2000), knowledge of Hehe and its varieties remains patchy. Translations of the scriptures have only just begun to be published using a simple orthography based largely on the writing of Swahili (The Bible Society of Tanzania 1999). There are no modern grammars or dictionaries of the language and its patterns of intonation are largely unstudied (cf. Nurse 1979: 114-115; Odden & Odden 1985, 1999). Like Bena and some other Southern Highlands languages Hehe has a reduced system of 5 vowels with distinctive vowel length (Nurse 1988: 102). Whether or not it has a pitch accent (restricted tone) system and both fixed and conditional vowel length as described for Kinga (Schadeberg 1973) and Sangu (Bilodeau 1979: 116-150) remains to be determined. The data on which this paper is based were collected opportunistically as part of an anthropological study of certain aspects of Hehe ethnobiology and culture. I became aware of innovation in Hehe noun class prefixes in January 2003 towards the end of field research, when reviewing animal names recorded by my long-term assistant in Iringa town, Justin John Kitinye. Before leaving Iringa I asked a number of other assistants and informants to write down animal and especially bird names to compare with earlier collections. I have since reviewed the relevant literature on Hehe (see references above; also Allen & Loveridge 1933; Bangs & Loveridge 1933; Jackson 1936; Swynnerton 1946; Kimaro et al. 2001; Topp-Jørgensen et al. 2001), together with available information on related languages (e.g. Brain 1980; Stronach et al. 1994) and in particular my own material on Sangu (1985 and recent field notes). The resulting data, assembled unsystematically and recorded imperfectly, are sufficient to demonstrate the significance of multiple affixation in Hehe animal names, if not to answer all of the questions that it raises. Hehe Noun Class Prefixes and Other Affixes The following table summarises the main features of the inherited Hehe noun class system, showing the augments (preprefixes) and concord prefixes as well as the basic nominal prefixes. The augments, which have some deictic uses (cf. Nurse 1979: 108), need not be considered further here. The semantic associations shown are merely the most obvious and not the results of comprehensive analysis (cf. the results of an earlier study of Hehe noun class semantics, Worsley 1954: 286-287). The singular / plural pairings that are indicated are the most typical. .
Noun Class 1 1a 2 3 Augment uuauNominal Prefix muØvamuConcord Prefix aavaguSemantic Associations (sg. = singular; pl. = plural) sg. people and their roles sg. kinship terms pl. of class 1, 1a sg. trees and shrubs; time and the calendar; some body parts


Noun Class 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20

Augment iiaiiiiuauuuauuu-

Nominal Prefix mi(l)imakifiNNlukatuwukupakumugu-

Concord Prefix giligakifi(y)i(t)silukatuwukupakumugu-

Semantic Associations (sg. = singular; pl. = plural) pl. of class 3 sg. body parts; some small plants augmentatives pl. of class 5, 14, 20 mass nouns and plurals sg. cultural products and behaviours some diminutives, e.g. small plants and animals pl. of class 7 sg. large animals; wild vegetables and herbs loanwords (often with Ø- as the nominal prefix) pl. of classes 9 and 11 sg. grasses, sedges and reeds; long and thing objects, distance; descriptive qualities sg. diminutives pl. of class 12 sg. liquid and sticky substances, foods; abstract qualities verbal infinitives locative, proximity to a place or time locative, motion to or from a place locative, inside a place sg. augmentatives (rarely used in ordinary speech)

Whereas most Hehe nominal prefixes are used substitutively in ordinary words, some of them can also be used additively in certain contexts. These include the locative prefixes (classes 16, 17, and 18) and the class 6 prefix when it is used as a mass plural. Other affixes in regular use are the special prefixes mwa- and se-, which prefix agnatic descent group names and indicate the gender of the person being addressed or referred to, e.g. mwamuyinga for a man, semuyinga for a woman - Muyinga in this example being the name of the putative ancestor of the Hehe royal family or patrilineage (Dempwolff 1908: 82-83; Redmayne 1964: 66-67). An infix with possessive sense, -nya-, is also widely used to form complex nouns that are typically descriptive and suggest the possession of a particular quality. It occurs in both animate and inanimate nouns in most of the noun classes, including classes 1 and 2, e.g. munyaluhala, ‘clever person’, < luhala, ‘intelligence’ (class 11). The class 9 names of many kitchen herbs are formed in this way, e.g. two names for the edible leaves of Corchoros olitorius: nyaluhanga < luhanga, ‘sand’ (class 11), and nyamugunda < mugunda, ‘field’ (class 3), both presumably indicating the environments in which these wild plants are found. With a class 3 prefix the first of these becomes munyaluhanga, recorded as a name for Pseudolachnostylis maprouneaefolia, a plant which provides building poles and a fish poison from its fruits (Walsh & Moyer 2002). Miscellaneous affixes of this kind are referred to as ‘medials’ by Meeussen (1967: 95; cf. Maganga & Schadeberg 1992: 189). Together with the regular (and some irregular) noun class prefixes they play an active role in the additive process which is most fully developed in Hehe animal names and described in the next section.


Runaway Affixation and the Innovation of Prefixes In this section I will describe the additive process and related innovations, and in the next section discuss at greater length some of the ways in which these might have developed. First let me give some examples: the following table shows different versions of Hehe names for a number of bird species.
Stem & Reference3 -fyosi Speckled Mousebird, Colius striatus Singular4 lufyosi lufyosi kilufyosi kilufyosi nyakihema nyangihema nyakahema nyakahema nyakahema mwangahema limwangahema ngamuhema ling’amuhema ng’akilumbi nyakilumbi nyakilumbi nyakilumbi kinyakilumbi linyakilumbi linyakilumbi kilununwi kimwalununu kimwalununu Plural fyosi fivalufyosi filufyosi filufyosi ~ fivalufyosi ? nyangihema nyakahema manyakahema gavanyakahema ? ? ? ? ? nyakilumbi manyakilumbi gavanyakilumbi ? manyakilumbi manyakilumbi ~ ganyakilumbi ~ gavanyakilumbi filununwi fimwalununu fimwalununu ~ fivamwalununu Noun class 11/10 Source5

11/8 7/8 7/8 9/? 9/10 9/10 9/6 9/6 ?9/? 5/? 9/? 5/? 9/? 9/10

Itimbo (Mufindi), Itimbo (Dabaga), Masisiwe, Kidabaga Idodi Mbigili Nzihi (Last 1885; Dempwolff 1914; Velten 1899) Kinyika Malinzanga Nyabula, Idodi Idodi (Dempwolff 1914) (Dempwolff 1914) (Dempwolff 1914) (Dempwolff 1911/12) (Spiss 1900) (Dempwolff 1914; Redmayne & Ndulute 1970), Masisiwe Nyabula, Idodi Idodi (Dempwolff 1911/12) Mbigili Nzihi

-hema Ostrich, Struthio camelus

-lumbi Pied Crow, Corvus albus

9/6 9/6 7/? 5/6 5/6

-nunu, -nunwi sunbirds, Nectarinia & Anthrepetes spp.

7/8 7/8 7/8

Itimbo (Mufindi), Igowole Masisiwe, Nyabula, Mbigili Idodi

Some of the identifications were provided by my long-term research assistant (who was born in Nzihi); other birds were readily identified in the field and/or through his and other informants’ descriptions. 4 Here and elsewhere I have sometimes revised the spelling of names, especially those from older sources, in order to conform to standard Hehe orthography. 5 Most place names indicate informant’s place of birth, though not subsequent residences. The informant from Itimbo in Mufindi district, for example, had lived and worked in many different parts of Iringa region and his lexical knowledge was correspondingly mixed. Malinzanga is the location in which the Masisiwe informant worked and had learned some terms. Tosamaganga identifies a pupil at the secondary school there whose place of birth was not recorded by my local assistant.



Stem & Reference3

Singular4 kimwalununu

Plural fivamwalununu nziva lupopolo nziva lupopolo ~ sivalupopolo fipopolo filupopolo ? filutema

Noun class 7/8 9/10 9/10 7/8 7/8 11/? 7/8


Nzihi Mbigili, Tosamaganga Nzihi Masisiwe, Igowole, Kinyika Idodi (Spiss 1900; Bangs & Loveridge 1933) Itimbo (Mufindi), Masisiwe, Nyabula, Kidabaga, Mbigili, Tosamaganga Idodi Nzihi Kinyika (Redmayne 1964) Itimbo (Mufindi) Wasa Mbigili Nzihi Nyabula Masisiwe Mbigili Nzihi

-popolo Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Turtur chalcospilos

nziva lupopolo nziva lupopolo ~ yilupopolo kipopolo kilupopolo lutema kilutema

-tema small and mediumsized raptors esp kites & sparrowhawks, Accipitridae

kilutema kilutema kingalutema kidege kititu kimwawutitu kinyamwititu kimwititu kimwititu limwititu luvatwi kiluvatwi liluvatwi ~ lingaluvatwi

-titu widow-birds, Euplectes spp.

-vatwi nightjars, Caprimulgidae

filutema ~ fivalutema fivalutema fingalutema ? fimutitu ? fimwititu fivamwititu gavamwititu mbatwi filuvatwi gavaluvatwi ~ gavangaluvatwi

7/8 7/8 7/8 7/? 7/8 7/? 7/8 7/8 5/6 11/10 7/8 5/6

These eight stems are a fraction of the total that could be shown, including the names of mammals, reptiles and different kinds of invertebrates. I have selected these particular bird names because, among other things, they illustrate the progressive stacking of prefixes and other affixes as well as the variation in forms that can be elicited from different informants and sometimes from the same person.6 In its most basic manifestation the additive process adds new singular and plural prefixes to an existing singular noun. This process can be repeated, optionally combining these prefixes with other affixes. Almost all of the primary noun class prefixes appear to be involved in this process, excluding the human classes (1, 1a, 2), the infinitive (15), the locatives (16, 17, 18), and the archaic augmentative (20). I assume that at least some sequences of -nga- should be read as /ŋa/, and -ngi- as /ŋi/, representing combinations of N + ka and N + ki respectively (informants were generally inconsistent in their transcription of the velar nasal, written ng’ in Swahili). Plural prefixes do not often appear in word-internal position for the obvious reason that the additive process usually builds upon singular nouns. There are, however, some exceptions to
I had more than ten informants who provided significant information on Hehe bird names but rather fewer for other animals. In cases where the name of a less widely-known animal has been elicited from only one informant then both zoological identification and recognition of the original nominal stem can be difficult. Sometimes it is also hard to distinguish compound from complex nouns without further linguistic information.


this. Some names incorporate the class 6 prefix, e.g. kimaganga, ‘a kind of flying insect’ < -ganga; limanjonjo, ‘Grey-headed Sparrow, Passer griseus’ < -jonjo; limambalago, ‘Redbacked Scrub Robin, Erythropygia leucophrys’ < -valago. By contrast the class 4 prefix was only elicited once in internal position. This was in the name gavamisululu, given as an alternative for gavamusululu (with the expected class 3 prefix), the plural of limusululu, ‘small kingfishers, Alcedinidae’ < -sululu. I interpret this as a slip of the tongue, interesting nonetheless (see below). As might be expected, the possessive infix -nya- features in many of the complex names. More unusual is the appearance of what I take to be the descent group prefix mwa- (mwi- before the class 5 prefix). This is perhaps the loose equivalent of prefixing English animal names with the title ‘Mr’, though I can find no example of the Hehe gender prefix occurring in initial position in animal names. There are also no unequivocal examples of the feminine prefix se- being employed in animal names. A possible candidate is an old name for the Spotted Hyena, Crocuta crocuta, ‘insegumbi’ (nsegumbi) in one recorded version, ‘usegumbe’ (wusegumbi) in another. This would assume a stem that is related to the root of mugumba, ‘childless woman’ (class 1), the gender specificity of which would make a feminine prefix appropriate.7 One set of prefixes has clearly been innovated. These are shown in the following table alongside their regular equivalents:
Noun Class 5 6 6 NEW 7 8 8 NEW 9 9 NEW 10 10 NEW Augment iaiiiiNominal Prefix (l)imagavakififivaNyiNsivaConcord Prefix ligagakififi(y)iyi(t)sisiSemantic Associations (sg. = singular; pl. = plural) sg. body parts; some small plants; augmentatives pl. of class 5, 14, 20; mass nouns and plurals INNOVATION pl. of class 5 animal names sg. cultural products and behaviours; some diminutives pl. of class 7 INNOVATION pl. of class 7 animal names sg. large animals; wild vegetables and herbs; loanwords INNOVATION sg. animal names pl. of classes 9 and 11 INNOVATION pl. of class 9 animal names

Three of the new forms are plural class markers (6, 8, 10) and one a singular prefix (9). They are clearly all related to and possibly derive in part from the regular concord prefixes for the same classes. The new plural prefixes are noticeably atypical for Hehe with their CVCV shape: the probable source for the second part of these is the class 2 nominal prefix va-. I will say more about this in the next section, as well as commenting on the regional distribution of this set of innovations. Discussion and Some Directions for Analysis The examples presented above and brief description of their main components point to a number of interesting features in addition to the basic process of additive affixation. How can we explain the different aspects of this process? In this section I will make some preliminary observations and offer a number of tentative hypotheses.
Bastin (1994: 20) proposes a protoform *-jegumbi to explain Hehe nsegumbi and attestations of –zumbi in Nyiha (M23) and Lwena (a K20 language spoken in Zambia). However, *nj does not produce #/ns/ in Hehe as Bastin claims, but /nz/. This would also fail to explain wusegumbi as a variant of the same name. The posited link with the Lwena term, which is defined as ‘mongoose sp.’, also looks weak on semantic grounds.


I have already noted that the medial -nya- is a common component of complex nouns in different classes, including animates (both human and non-human) and inanimates. It is readily used to form descriptive names of animals, of which the following class 9 nouns are a sample: nyalupala, ‘Lion, Panthera leo’ < -pala, ‘to scratch’; nyamuhanga, ‘Aardvark, Orycteropus afer’ < luhanga, ‘sand’; nyagala, ‘zebra mouse, Lemniscomys spp.’ < -gala; nyamwilu, ‘Blacknecked Spitting Cobra’, Naja nigricollis’ < -ilu ‘black’.8 Given that many different kinds of nouns are formed in this way, it might be thought of as the paradigm for additive processes. However, the infix -nya- is only involved in some of the complex animal names, and it is often difficult to assign a meaning to its use in these. This can be illustrated by cases in which -nya- is apparently interchangeable with other affixes, e.g. nyakahema vs. ngamuhema, nyakilumbi vs. ng’akilumbi, kinyamwititu vs. kimwawutitu (taken from the table of bird names). Even in relatively transparent forms like nyamuhanga (see above) it is difficult to explain the choice of affix (noun class prefix) which follows -nya- and precedes the stem (why has the class 11 prefix of luhanga been replaced by a class 3 prefix?). A more compelling hypothesis, and one which might explain a number of the features of additive affixation in Hehe, is to trace its source to the reduction of binomial animal names and their conversion into monomials. As in many other systems of ethnobiological classification, binomials are readily generated in Hehe. Informants typically give a number of animal names in this form, especially when asked for detailed lists and descriptions of animal kinds. The following are examples of binomial bird names:
Binomial kidege kititu widow-bird, Euplectes spp. kihuna kikomi Green-winged Pytilia, Pytilia melba kitundulu ndumbwe ? male Paradise Whydah, Steganura paradisaea kitundulu wukanga ? Peter’s Twinspot, Hypargos niveoguttatus Derivation < kidege, ‘bird’ < kihuna, ‘African Firefinch, Lagonostica rubricata’ < kitundulu, ‘cordon-bleus, waxbills, and paradise whydahs’ < kitundulu, ‘cordon-bleus, waxbills, and paradise whydahs’ + -titu, ‘black’ + -komi, ‘large’

+ *-tumbwe, ‘whydahs and paradise flycatchers’ + *-kanga, ‘guineafowls’ (i.e. spotted birds)

Binomials are formed by adding a nominal or adjectival modifier to a primary lexeme. As these examples suggest, concord between the first and second elements of a binomial is only required when the modifier is an adjectival stem. Nominal stems can take their own noun class prefixes and these need not agree with the class of the primary lexeme. Choice of the second prefix seems to be often governed by semantic considerations (e.g. wukanga might be loosely translated as ‘spottiness’). Binomials can in turn be converted into monomials by deleting the stem of the primary lexeme and adding its noun class prefix (or a homologue of the same) to the secondary lexeme. The result is replacement of the binomial with a new lexeme which has formed from it. My principal research assistant (from Nzihi) provided an unsolicited illustration of this process when we were discussing the new prefixes that he employed in some animal names (see above). He illustrated

Some of the animal names of this kind were probably euphemisms in origin that have subsequently replaced inherited terms for the same species.


their use by converting a series of class 9/10 bird names (based on the primary lexeme nziva, ‘dove’) into monomials with the new prefixes, as shown in the next table:
Binomial nziva igongo ~ nzivigongo < nziva + igongo, ‘the Rift Valley’9 Speckled Pigeon, Columba guinea nziva ludanda < nziva + danda, 9/10, ‘blood’ Laughing Dove, Streptopelia senegalensis nziva lukesa < nziva + -kesa (etymology opaque) ring-necked doves, Streptopelia spp. nziva lupopolo < nziva + -popolo, ‘dove sp.’ (from a widespread root) Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Turtur chalcospilos nziva lutute < nziva + -tute, ‘dove sp.’ (from a widespread root) Dusky Turtle Dove, Streptopelia lugens nziva luwono < nziva + luwono, 11/10, ‘Castor Oil, Ricinus communis’ Namaqua Dove, Oena capensis nziva musosa < nziva + musosa, 3/4, ‘tree sp.’ Green Pigeon, Treron australis New Monomial > yigongo, pl. sivagongo > yiludanda, pl. sivaludanda > yilukesa, pl. sivalukesa > yilupopolo, pl. sivalupopolo > yilutute, pl. sivalutute > yiluwono, pl. sivaluwono > yimusosa, pl. sivamusosa

The general process of binomial reduction in these and other (reconstructed) examples can summarised by the following formula: (NPx + stem1) + (NPy + stem2) > NPx + NPy + stem2 Simple deletion of the primary lexeme is probably not an option for semantic reasons. Combining the constituent lexemes of a binomial into one makes good sense (!) both morphologically and semantically. It also avoids the creation of a monomial assigned to a noun class incompatible with its new role as a free-standing animal name. Many secondary lexemes have nominal prefixes which are appropriate to their function as the modifying terms in binomials, but which are rarely employed in monomial animal names and look out of place if they are (e.g. class 3, 11 and 14 prefixes). Many secondary lexemes are also based on adjectival and nominal stems that are widely used in lexemes other than animal names, in which case their simple conversion into monomials would produce confusion with other words. Imagine, for example, birds with banal names like kititu, ‘black object’ (from kidege kititu) and luwono, ‘castor oil plant’ (from nziva luwono). This would also work against the substitution of one prefix by another, i.e. replacement of the secondary lexeme’s original prefix by the prefix taken from the primary lexeme. In the hypothetical examples already given this would produce kititu (again) and mbono, which is the everyday word for the oil of the castor plant and hardly appropriate as a bird name.


Igongo is a traditional Hehe name for the Rift Valley and part of what is now Ruaha National Park. The initial iof this name is a prefix sometimes used with place names. It has apparently been dropped in the new monomial form, which builds on the stem -gongo.


Under these circumstances it is understandable that the conversion of binomials into monomials should generally follow the formula given above. However, in cases where there is concordial agreement between the two lexemes that comprise a binomial, this would still create a problem. The reduction of kidege kititu, for example, would produce the sequence #kikititu. As far as I am aware, prefixes are never repeated in this way in Hehe. Deleting one half of a CVCV prefix like this would simply bring us back to one of the problems that we have already described. A possible solution in cases like this is to insert another affix, e.g. the gender prefix mwa- or the medial -nya-, giving the following formula: (NPx + stem1) + (NPx + stem2) > (NP +) Affix + NPx + stem2 I have shown the outer prefix in the resulting monomial as optional. The omission of this prefix might provide an opportunity for the word’s reassignment to another class, initially perhaps the default class 9.10 Regularization of such words by adding a new outer prefix would provide a further opportunity for class reassignment. We can hypothesize that the creation of monomials in the ways outlined above is and has been a common process. This might explain the doubling of prefixes in many animal names as well as the fact that the first of these prefixes (adjacent to the stem) often belongs to a class which is not normally used in animal names. The class 11 prefix seems to be found more frequently than any other in this position, reflecting perhaps one of the semantic functions of class 11 (the description of qualities) and the role of this prefix in forming secondary lexemes in binomials. Some of the constructions using mwa- and -nya- might also be explained by this model, though both of these affixes are evidently capable of generating complex nouns in other ways as well – hence their occurrence in words other than animal names. This hypothesis does not explain all of the features that I have described, such as the innovation of new class markers, including the CVCV plurals. It looks as though once Hehe deviated from the normal pattern of substitutive and additive affixation, then the process really did ‘run away with itself’ and develop a logic of its own. This may not be the best way of expressing it, but I suspect that something of the kind has happened. In some instances affixes (prefixes and medials) do appear to have been progressively added onto nominal stems, building increasingly complex words. Many of the simpler forms that I elicited came from informants born in and around the Udzungwa Mountains, the line of highlands that run the length of Uhehe (Hehe territory) and define its southern boundary. More complex forms, including the new noun class prefixes, appear to be used more in central and especially northern areas including the Rift Valley. This suggests that the process has developed further in the north – though this should be treated as no more than a preliminary impression based on limited data collected from a small and skewed sample of informants. Whatever the case, the available lexical data defy attempts to reconstruct the accumulation of affixes over time. This is particularly so in the case of the longer and more complex lexemes which vary considerably in their constituents. The reason for this seems to be that affixation has not only developed incrementally, but that other processes have also played a part in producing the patterns that we see today. The new noun class prefixes are evidently based on the regular concord prefixes – with perhaps additional influence from similar nominal prefixes in Gogo. The second element in the CVCV plural prefixes is probably modelled on the class 2 nominal prefix. Its distribution suggests that this may be a recent innovation. It is possible, though, that other


The few animal names in Sangu which are prefixed with mwa- are indeed assigned to the class 9/10 pair.


complex morphemes have been innovated in the past and can be traced in contemporary animal names. This may well be the case with some of the -nga- sequences found within them. Another striking innovation is the complex morpheme, ngamu-, that Dempwolff (1908: 82) described as prefixing animal names in Hehe folk tales but not in ordinary speech. In one story, for example, the following forms appear: ngamupala, ‘Lion, Panthera leo’ (instead of the usual nyalupala, class 9); ngamubala, ‘Honey Badger, Mellivora capensis’ (vs. libala, class 5); ngamusungula, ‘Cape Hare, Lepus capensis’ (vs. sungula, class 9, and kisungula, 7); and ngamufifi, ‘Spotted Hyena, Crocuta crocuta’ (vs. fifi, class 9, and lififi, 5). Other complex forms in the same story include kingamusungula for the hare and lingamufifi for the hyena (Dempwolff 1914: 133-135). More examples can be found in the other tales transcribed by Dempwolff, including the impressive mwangamudembwe, ‘Elephant, Loxodonta africana’, and its simpler form ngamudembwe (vs. regular ndembwe, class 9). The ordinary forms of animal names also occur in some stories and it is clear that story tellers elaborated them to differing degrees.11 Complex forms like these seem to have been developed and applied though analogy rather than just the piecemeal accumulation of affixes over time. This is probably the case with at least some contemporary versions of names. The available evidence suggests that some sequences of affixes have been copied across from one name to another, and that sometimes the names of related or similar animals have been (and are) modified like this in parallel. Consider, for example, the following list of names for large birds: nyakahema, ‘Ostrich, Struthio camelus’ nyakakwangala, ‘? eagle sp.’12 nyakalenge ~ linyakalenge, ‘Pied Crow, Corvus albus’ nyakalumbi ~ linyakilumbi, also ‘Pied Crow, Corvus albus’ nyakapinde ~ linyakapinda (sic.), ‘Ground Hornbill, Bucorvus leadbeateri’ An analogous pattern can be seen in Sangu, in which many large or ground-dwelling birds have class 9 names prefixed by nkha-, nkhalu-, and nkhamu-: nkhahema, ‘Ostrich, Struthio camelus’ nkhahove, ‘Pied Crow, Corvus albus’ nkhahududu, ‘Ground Hornbill, Bucorvus leadbeateri’ nkhalugonga, ‘sandgrouse, Pterocles spp.’ nkhalugwada, ‘Secretary Bird, Sagittarius serpentarius’ nkhalukwangala, ‘unidentified raptor sp.’ nkhalupaga, ‘unidentified vulture sp.’ nkhalutema, ‘Black Kite, Milvus migrans’ nkhaluvatu, ‘nightjar spp., Caprimulgidae’ nkhamuditu, ‘African Open-billed Stork, Anastomus lamelligerus’ nkhamunyonga, also ‘African Open-billed Stork, Anastomus lamelligerus’ nkhamuwonelo, ‘Great Snipe, Gallinago media’


I do not know whether these or other complex forms of animal names are still used by story tellers in the way that Dempwolff’s data suggest. Analogous forms do not appear in modern Sangu folk tales (e.g. those recorded by Bilodeau 1979 and Bechon 2000). 12 One informant identified this as an alternative name for the Secretary Bird, Sagittarius serpentarius, otherwise called nyakiko.


It is unlikely that groups of names such as these have developed from binomials. Instead they appear to comprise covert semantic categories which have been defined by the copying of the same or similar sequences of affixes. The existence of such patterns in both Hehe and Sangu also raises the possibility that such paradigms have been borrowed and copied between languages. Sangu animal names exhibit some features similar to the Hehe case as described in this paper, but to a much lesser extent. Unfortunately insufficient data are available on animal names in other Southern Highlands languages to determine whether these are inherited processes or whether particular words and patterns have been borrowed by individual languages. If the latter is the case, then it may be significant that Hehe and Sangu – which are not especially close in genetic linguistic terms13 – meet in the Rift Valley and nearby northern areas which seem to be the source of at least some of the innovations in Hehe. Rather like some of Dempwolff’s story tellers, contemporary Hehe speakers appear to be adept in manipulating the affixes in animal names, treating all of them – noun class prefixes, other affixes, and various sequences of these – as members of a single morphological set. This should be evident from data presented above, especially the table of different versions of Hehe bird names. Not only can quite different forms be elicited from different speakers, but also from the same informants on single occasions. There was considerable variation, for example, in their use of the new noun class prefixes, and some informants produced many more unusual singular / plural pairings than others. They were not necessarily conscious of these and other inconsistencies, some of which at least seemed to reflect residential mobility and experience of different local speech communities within Uhehe.14 Conscious or not, though, the overall impression is one of creativity and not confusion. These are clearly very active and productive processes in Hehe, and might well challenge the view that it is a Bantu language that lacks any peculiar or particularly interesting features. Conclusion Based as it is on limited data and a preliminary description, this paper raises more questions than it answers, though I have tried to suggest some of the directions in which analysis might proceed. To conclude this discussion I would like to touch on another set of issues that I have been skirting around. In his 1954 paper, ‘Noun-classification in Australian and Bantu: Formal or Semantic?’, Peter Worsley used the example of Hehe to argue that nominal classification in Bantu has semantic motivations comparable to those found in Australian languages.15 This is now well established, though the study of this aspect of Bantu is perhaps not as developed as it could be (Katamba 2003: 114-119). The relative importance of formal and semantic processes remains an issue in the study of individual languages as well as in comparative and historical work. Unfortunately we lack the conceptual tools to analyse semantics with anything like the degree of confidence that we can examine morphology. My discussion in this paper has focused on the formal processes of nominal affixation in Hehe. It should be clear, however, that semantic factors have played and continue to play an important role in the development and maintenance of these processes. I suspect that one of the most interesting and difficult challenges for future research on the Hehe case will be the further description and elucidation of these.


The verbal morphology and tense and aspect systems of Hehe and Sangu are much more different than a comparison of phonology, nominal morphology and their vocabularies would lead one to expect. 14 It should also be borne in mind that some inconsistencies may be an artefact of the ways in which lexical data were elicited and/or recorded. 15 For a more recent overview of nominal classification in Australian languages see the papers collected in Harvey & Reid (1997).


Acknowledgements I am very grateful to my research assistant in Iringa, John Justin Kitinye, whose work on Hehe ethnozoology first brought the subject of this paper to my attention. Special thanks are also due to the following for the linguistic data they provided: Francis Saidi Ndimwa (Hehe animal names), the late Richard Kassim Kihongole, I. J. Kimaro, Elmer Topp-Jørgensen (Hehe mammal names), Samwel Kahise, Musa Kazimoto, Paulo Kibuga, Dominic V. N. Kihwele, Josephat Kisanyage, Alphonce D. Longo, Magnus Maliva, Henry Anderson Mwandisi (Hehe bird names), Gabriel S. Mgassi, Augustino Mwadasi (Sangu bird names), and Raphael Shinangonele (Sangu, Hehe and Wanji bird names). Among many colleagues who have helped in different ways I would especially like to thank Roger Blench and Peter Worsley for their intellectual contributions to the work in progress.

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