LINGUIST List 8.890

Wed Jun 18 1997

Sum: "Circumcision" in African languages

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Jeff Marck, "Circumcision" in African languages

Message 1: "Circumcision" in African languages

Date: Fri, 13 Jun 1997 12:37:11 +1100
From: Jeff Marck <>
Subject: "Circumcision" in African languages

13 June 1997

Linguist-l and ARCLING Subscribers,

Towards the end of last year I requested assistance in finding terms
for "circumcision" in African languages. The paper that resulted from
that query and related work is now in press as "Aspects of male
circumcision in subequatorial African culture history" in _Health
Transition Review_.

The paper is available through the Health Transition Centre web site:

(then "Find" "Marck")

The main text is in RFT format and seems to be readable by most word
processing softwares. There are five maps which are in "PDF" format
and can be read with the freeware "Acrobat Reader" for which a link is
provided after the title of the paper.

The main conclusions were suggestive rather than diagnostic and I was
able to make no higher level reconstructions than Vansina's western
Bantu reconstructions. But a strong typological argument emerged
suggesting that Bantu speaking peoples who do not practice male
circumcision have abandoned a former practice and it was noted that
the Bantu speaking peoples who have done so are contiguous Guthrie
groups. Along with abandonment of male circumcision, these groups have
also abandoned male adolescent rites of initiation and age grades
except on some of the margins of the non-circumcising area.

The purpose of the project was to ask what male circumcision means to
Africans and why it has the distribution it does as circumcising
groups in Africa have consistently lower HIV rates (I work in the
Third World unit of an epidemiology centre).

Thanks to those people who offered information or encouragement.

Jeff Marck

Jeff Marck Health Transition Review (HTR)
Publications Officer Health Transition Centre (HTC) National Centre for Epidemiology
61-6-249-5626 and Population Health (NCEPH)
61-6-249-5614 (fax) Australian National University(ANU)
 Canberra ACT 0200 Australia

HTC Publications:
 Health Transition Review (journal)
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 Bibliographies and other links
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