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The Basis of Bantu Literature

  • C. M. Doke


Certain Bantu languages to-day are developing as literary media, not only for official, educational, correspondence or publicity purposes, but for the more aesthetic side of life, for mental and spiritual culture. It is appropriate to consider now what basis the Bantu languages, qua Bantu languages, have upon which to build a distinctive literature, what natural equipment for literary success.



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page 284 note 1 In his most interesting chapter, ‘Traditional Literature’, in The Bantu-speaking Tribes of South Africa (ed. Schapera, I.), pp. 302–3.

page 285 note 1 Ibid., p. 303.

page 285 note 2 For studies on foreign acquisitions reference may be made to G. P. Lestrade's ‘European Influ- ences upon the Development of Bantu Language and Literature’, chapter v of Western Civilization and the Natives of South Africa(1934).Warmelo's, J.vanEuropean and other Influences in Sotho’, Bantu Studies, vol. iii, pp. 405–21 (1929); Mbelle's, I. BudKaffir Scholar's Companion (1903); and for Eastern acquisitions in Swahili, Krumm's, B.Words of oriental Origin in Swahili (1940).

page 285 note 3 These translations have not yet been published.

page 288 note 1 Bantu Studies, vol. xii, p. 243.

page 288 note 2 i.e. the verb used with ideophones in Shona.

page 288 note 3 Except for eastern influence upon Swahili, Bushman and Hottentot influence upon the south-western languages, with some Sudanic and Hamitic influence upon certain languages of the north-west and north respectively.

page 289 note 1 According to the numbers used by Meinhof in his Ur-Bantu classification.

page 290 note 1 Naturally there are zonal exceptions, such as that of eastern words in Swahili, Sudanic influence in the north-western zone, or the operation of assimilation of vowels in Kongo.

page 290 note 2 Identical with the noun-class prefix of Meinhof's Class 15.

page 290 note 3 According to the form of the stem vowel.

page 291 note 1 According to the form of the stem vowel, and the nasal or non-nasal form of the consonant of the final syllable. Lamba has other intricate rules of formation as well, which we need not notice here.

page 291 note 2 In Zulu, while the Causative suffix is normally -isa, the Intensive is -isisa, a reduplicated form.

page 291 note 3 Dependent upon vowel and nasal rules.

page 291 note 4 Other suffixes such as -aika, -aila, and -aisya are used with certain non-primitive stems.

page 291 note 5 According to vowel and nasal rules.

page 291 note 6 With monosyllabic verbs the suffix is -ililila, -elelela, &c.

page 291 note 7 In some Bantu languages this forms the Diminutive, e.g. Zulu: Bona (see) > BonaBona (see indistinctly).

page 291 note 8 A triplication in the case of monosyllabic stems.

page 292 note 1 By Doke, pp. 220–9.

page 292 note 2 By Doke, pp. 156–8 of the 4th edition.

page 292 note 3 Syntactically the imperative is a verbal interjection, and the infinitive a verbal noun.

page 292 note 4 In some Bantu languages the participial, which is a sub-mood corresponding in the main to indicative tenses, is treated as a third conjugation—the Relative Conjugation.

page 294 note 1 Taken down by Stuart verbatim from Native sources.

page 294 note 2 uVusezakithi, 1938 edition, p. 107.

page 294 note 3 Ibid., pp. 108–9.

page 297 note 1 Many examples of reduplication are also given by Ittmann in his Grammatik des Duala, pp. 162–6.

page 297 note 2 Pp. 145–89.

page 297 note 3 By Doke, pp. 80–4.

page 297 note 4 By Doke, pp. 108–10.

page 299 note 1 The derivation of some of these is no longerapparent.

page 299 note 2 Stuart, J., uThulasizwe (1937 ed.), p. 6.

page 299 note 3 Ibid., p. 4.

page 299 note 4 Ibid., p. 12.

page 300 note 1 For details upon these, reference may be made to H. L. Bishop's article ‘The “Descriptive Complement” in the Sironga Language, compared with that in Sesotho and in Zulu’( South African Journal of Science, 1922, vol. xix, pp. 416–25); to the ‘Mimic Nouns’ of Wanger, W. in his Scientific Zulu Grammar, pp. 314–19; and to the relevant chapters in Doke's Text-book of Zulu Grammar and Text-book of Lamba Grammar.

page 300 note 2 Cf. , Doke, Bantu Linguistic Terminology, pp. 118–19.

page 301 note 1 Tone marking for record purposes in Zulu is by figures 1–9, 1 being the highest tone, 9 the lowest of the nine-tone scale.

page 301 note 2 The last three types, prolonged vowels, nasalized vowels, and pressed vowels, do not occur in the normal phonology of Lamba.

page 301 note 3 There are examples of its use in the Ila New Testament, e.g. Rev. vi. 2, 4: imbizhi ituba-bù, imbizhi isubila-più, where bù conveys the idea of complete whiteness, and più of complete redness; Rev. viii. 1, kwaba kwainza-nè, where means that the silence was absolute; Rev. xvi. 12, menzhi azuma-ntà, where ntà gives the impression of complete dryness.

The Basis of Bantu Literature

  • C. M. Doke


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