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Grammatical and Lexical Comparison of the Greater Ruvu Bantu Languages

Journal article
Authors Malin Petzell
Harald Hammarström
Published in Nordic Journal of African Studies
Volume 22
Issue 3
Pages 129-157
ISSN 1235-4481
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 129-157
Language en
Keywords Bantu languages, lexical comparison, morphosyntactic comparison, automated cognate judgement, sub-grouping
Subject categories Language Technology (Computational Linguistics), General Language Studies and Linguistics, African languages, Bantu languages


This article discusses lexical and grammatical comparison and sub-grouping in a set of closely related Bantu language varieties in the Morogoro region, Tanzania. The Greater Ruvu Bantu language varieties include Kagulu [G12], Zigua [G31], Kwere [G32], Zalamo [G33], Nguu [G34], Luguru [G35], Kami [G36] and Kutu [G37]. The comparison is based on 27 morphophonological and morphosyntactic parameters, a lexicon of 500 items and the speakers’ self-assessment of linguistic similarity. In order to determine the relationships and boundaries between the varieties, grammatical phenomena constitute a valuable complement to counting the number of identical words or cognates. We have used automated cognate judgment methods, as well as manual cognate judgments based on older sources, in order to compare lexical data. Finally, we have included speaker attitudes (i.e. self- assessment) in an attempt to map whether the languages that are perceived by speakers as being linguistically similar really are closely related.

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