Language

Name ID 328

See also

Cartwright, Justin Masai Dreaming
Page Number: Introduction

Spelling of Masai

The vowel sound aai pronounced eye is very popular with the Masai. Masai has a long a. Researchers and academics now spell Masai Maasai. Long as are more authentic and less touristy. There is no correct spelling of a Masai word, because Masai is not a written Language.

Extract ID: 1407

See also

CD Groliers Encyclopedia
Extract Author: William E. Welmers
Page Number: 0.1

More than 1,700 distinct languages are spoken

More than 1,700 distinct languages are spoken on the African continent, and they constitute about 30 percent of all world languages. The exact number is impossible to ascertain, because not enough information is available about many of them to determine whether different names refer to distinct languages or merely to mutually intelligible dialects of larger languages. Groups of people who speak a distinct African Language range in size from several million down to a thousand or even fewer. Apart from North Africa, only a few African countries, for example, Somalia, Rwanda, and Burundi, have a single or a dominant Language. As a result, official languages are usually English, French, or Portuguese.

Extract ID: 484

See also

CD Groliers Encyclopedia
Extract Author: William E Welmers
Page Number: 0.2

History

The study of African languages began before 1600 and was the task of early Christian missionaries. Few works of lasting importance, however, were produced before 1850. Missionaries and some governmental administrators and agencies, in the colonial era and in the present time of independent African nations, have always been the primary contributors to research in African languages. Their goals have been largely practical: literacy, evangelization, and education. Strictly scholarly interest in African languages, centered in university programs, dates back to about 1850 in South Africa, the late 1920s in Europe, 1959 in the United States, and about 1960 in a number of other African institutions.

The classification of African languages is, with a few minor refinements, that proposed by Joseph H. Greenberg in 1963. Recently, some revisions in the subclassification of the Niger-Congo languages have been suggested, but these are only tentatively accepted at present. Edgar Gregerson has recently theorized that the Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Kordofanian Language families may have been related in the extremely distant past as members of an even older 'Kongo-Saharan' superfamily.

Extract ID: 485

See also

CD Groliers Encyclopedia
Extract Author: William E Welmers
Page Number: 0.3

Phonetic Characteristics

Although the Khoisan languages, spoken by some hunting and gathering or cattle-raising peoples in southern Africa, make up only a fraction of the languages of Africa, they are of special interest because of their unique use of 'click' consonants. This click is similar to the sound one makes when saying 'tsk, tsk' or that one uses to spur on a horse or to imitate the sound of a cork popping out of a bottle. But clicks function as the following consonants do in the Roman alphabet: p, t, and k. In most Khoisan languages, almost every noun, verb, and adjective begins with such a click. The use of clicks has spread into some neighboring Bantu languages, notably IsiXhosa; they are generally represented in the written Language by the letters c, x, and q, which are not needed to represent other sounds.

Languages of the Niger-Kordofanian and Nilo-Saharan families, spoken by the majority of Saharan and sub-Saharan peoples, generally do not permit consonant sequences like those in such English words as struts or prints. Consonants followed by 'glides,' such as the w and y sounds, however, are common. Examples are the Igbo word akwa ('cloth') and the Nupe word kyakya ('bicycle'). Common consonantal sequences are a nasal followed by an oral consonant: mb, nd, and ng and also mp, nt, nk, and other combinations. These may function as unit consonants; some well-known names, for example, are properly syllabified as Ta-nza-ni-a, U-ga-nda, and Zi-mba-bwe. In some languages, however, nasals may be syllables in their own right; they are just hummed, without a preceding or following vowel. An example is the Igbo word nta ('small'). Many languages permit only a few different syllable-final consonants or none at all.

Almost all languages of sub-Saharan Africa are tone languages; the northern West Atlantic languages, Swahili, and a few others are not. In a tone Language, distinctions in pitch are as important in the makeup of words as are distinctions in consonants or vowels. Every word has its own tone or tone sequence, which may, however, undergo definable changes in some contexts. Tone may also signal grammatical differences. Some languages have two to four distinct tone levels ('discrete level' systems). Others have two, sometimes three levels, plus a slight lowering of nonlow tones ('downstep'), as much as six or seven times in a phrase or sentence ('terraced level' systems).

Extract ID: 486

See also

CD Groliers Encyclopedia
Extract Author: William E Welmers
Page Number: 0.4

Grammatical Characteristics

A striking grammatical feature of most African languages is that modifiers come after, rather than before, the noun. For example, the translation of the Swahili sentence kisu kikubwa kimoja kile changu ('that one big knife of mine') is literally 'knife big one that my.' The order of grammatical elements in a sentence must also be noted. In some languages, like English, an object follows a verb. This is the rule in Igbo: o zuru mma ('he stole a knife'). The order of the Igbo words is the same as that of the English translation. However, in Kpelle the verb follows the object: e kali ya (literally, 'he a hoe bought').

At least some languages in every branch of the Niger-Kordofanian family, except Mande, have noun classes and agreement, or concord. This characteristic is most easily illustrated in a Bantu Language such as Swahili. Personal nouns in Swahili have a singular prefix m- and a plural prefix wa-, for example, mtu ('a person') and watu ('people'). Terms for trees and many other items have a singular prefix m- and a plural prefix mi-, for example, mti ('a tree') and miti ('trees'). Many other nouns have a singular prefix ki- and a plural prefix vi-, for example, kisu ('a knife') and visu ('knives').

Other singular-plural pairs are used as well as a 'liquid mass' class with the prefix ma-, for example, maji ('water') and mafuta ('oil'). Each prefix determines an appropriate concord prefix for noun modifiers as well as for verbal subject and object markers. Concord prefixes for a modifier meaning 'that' are shown in the following examples: mtu yule ('that person'), watu wale ('those people'); mti ule ('that tree'), miti ile ('those trees'); kisu kile ('that knife'), visu vile ('those knives'); maji yale ('that water'). Such systems vary from Language to Language, including the use of class-marking suffixes, rather than prefixes, but recognizable similarities pervade the Niger-Kordofanian languages. Many Kwa languages have no singular-plural contrast in nouns at all and yet show remnants of noun classification in what must once have been prefixes, for example, Igbo mpi ('horn {of an animal}'), but opi ('musical horn, flute').

Extract ID: 487

See also

Map and Guide to Tanzania
Page Number: 10

Language

Tanzania has a linguistic diversity unique in Africa with, for example, the rare Khoisan click Language characterized by implosing consonants (spoken only by the Sandawe and Hadza and common among South Africa's Bushmen and Hottentots) and Cushitic and Nilotic languages in the North of the country. But the lingua franca is a major Bantu Language with more than 100 dialects, Swahili, the name of which derives from the Arabic 'sahit' or 'the coast'. It is the only Bantu Language with written literature in Arabic script - the first manuscript dates back to the 17th Century, with the longest versified poetry epic in any African Language on the life of Muhammad.

In 1925 Swahili became the first instruction Language at Primary level and was declared Tanzania's official Language in 1963. Standard Swahili is Kiunguja spoken on Zanzibar and on the Mainland.

Extract ID: 192
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