LINGUIST List 9.149

Sat Jan 31 1998

Sum: Etyma

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. Maria Carlota A. P. Rosa, Sum: Etyma

Message 1: Sum: Etyma

Date: Sat, 31 Jan 1998 16:35:18 -0200
From: Maria Carlota A. P. Rosa <>
Subject: Sum: Etyma

Some days ago I asked about the etyma of "Bantu" and "Benin". I would
like to thank:

Joaquim Brandao de Carvalho
Bart de Boer
Keith Battarbee
Peter Daniels
Laura Downing
Ralf Grosserhode
Marc Picard
Baruch Podolsky
George Rebuschi

Here, a summary of theirs answers.

The word "Bantu" was coined by Wilhelm Bleek. He was the first to see
the relationship among those languages, and claimed that in his work
Comparative Grammar of South African Languages (1862-1869).

"Bantu" is a prototypical form for "people" in Bantu languages. It is
as artificial as *ekwos to "horse" in indo-european. It consists of
the root -ntu which is the reconstructed form for "person" in Bantu
(Swahili has -tu, Gogo has nhu [Gogo doesn't allow nasal-voiceless
plosive-sequences]. Nyamwezi has -nhu, Yanzi has -:r and so on and so
forth). ba- is a nominal prefix of Class 2 ( ~wa, ba, va- B(voiced
bilabial fricative)a in actual languages), which forms the plural of
Class 1 (Bantu languages normally have 15-18 different noun-classes in
different possible pairings).

Concerning to "Benin", I reproduce the quotation sent me by Marc
Picard, from Adrian Room's PLACE NAMES OF THE WORLD (Angus &

> "Before 1975 was *Dahomey*. Present name comes from that of former
> Edo-Bini kingdom here, whose territory extended much further than
> present state, so that Bini people are more closely connected with
> southern *Nigeria*" (1987:44). Linguistically, Bini and Benin are
> simply variant names of Edo (cf. Barbara Grimes' ETHNOLOGUE).


Maria Carlota Rosa - UFRJ/ Faculdade de Letras/ Dept. de Linguistica e
Campus Universitario - Ilha do Fundao - Rio de Janeiro - RJ
CEP:21.941-590 - BRASIL
tel/fax:(021) 270-1696 
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