Get Guthrie Classification of Bantu Languages essential facts below. View Videos or join the Guthrie Classification of Bantu Languages discussion. Add Guthrie Classification of Bantu Languages to your PopFlock.com topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
The approximate locations of the sixteen Guthrie Bantu zones, including the addition of a zone J
The 250 or so "Narrow Bantu languages" are conventionally divided up into geographic zones first proposed by Malcolm Guthrie (1967-1971). These were assigned letters A-S and divided into decades (groups A10, A20, etc.); individual languages were assigned unit numbers (A11, A12, etc.), and dialects further subdivided (A11a, A11b, etc.). This coding system has become the standard for identifying Bantu languages; it was the only practical way to distinguish many ambiguously named languages before the introduction of ISO 639-3 coding, and it continues to be widely used. Only Guthrie's Zone S is (sometimes) considered to be a genealogical group. Since Guthrie's time a Zone J (made of languages formerly classified in groups D and E) has been set up as another possible genealogical group bordering the Great Lakes.
The list is first summarized, with links to articles on accepted groups of Bantu languages (bold decade headings). Following that is the complete 1948 list, as updated by Guthrie in 1971 and by J. F. Maho in 2009.
The list below reflects Guthrie as updated by Maho (2009). Not included in detail are the Northeast Bantu languages characterized by Dahl's Law, which is thought to be a genealogical group, cuts across the Guthrie system, and is covered at Northeast Bantu. Other groups with dedicated articles, such as Southern Bantu (Zone S) are also only summarized here, so that the initial listing is only a summary and an index for other articles.
Note that Ethnologue made multiple changes to Guthrie in an attempt to make the classification more historically accurate. However, the changes are inconsistent, and Ethnologue has not been followed here, though it is publicly available online. Thus a code may mean different things depending on whether Guthrie or SIL is being followed. (See link below for the SIL code assignments.) The updates in Maho (2009), on the other hand, are designed to be compatible with the original values of the codes.
Bantu has long been divided into Northwest Bantu (Forest Bantu) and Central Bantu (Savanna Bantu) branches based upon tone patterns, but there is little agreement as to which Guthrie zones (or which parts of zones) should be in either, the dichotomy is dubious, and they have not been followed here.
Accepted genealogical groups within the Guthrie zones are boldfaced.
Much of F20 and F30, including the major language Sukuma, have been reclassified as Northeast Bantu, with Bungu to Rukwa and Sumbwa as Great Lakes. Mbugwe-Rangi, however, form a valid node by themselves.
Isanzu is sometimes classified as F30, as a variety of Nilamba, and sometimes thought to be a remnant of the Bantu languages spoken in the area before F-zone languages arrived.
K20 Lozi is now classified as Southern Bantu. Some K30 languages have been reclassified as Kavango, but Luyana is an independent lineage. K40 Subiya-Totela has been reclassified as Botatwe, apart from Mbukushu, which appears to be an independent lineage.
R20 Ovambo, R30 Herero, and R10 apart from Umbundu have been grouped together as Southwest Bantu. Yeyi forms its own lineage.
Full list (1948/2009)
Following is the original list from Guthrie (1948), with all numerical assignments, as updated by Guthrie himself (1971) and J.F. Maho (2009). The groups are geographic, and do not necessarily imply a relationship between the languages within them. Words in parentheses are added for disambiguation. Numbers in brackets are changes made in Maho (2009); languages in brackets were added by Maho (2009). Languages of the proposed Zone J are included among zones D and E.
Maho 2009. Guthrie 1971, in detail, with subsequent additions, corrections, and corresponding ISO codes as of Ethnologue 15. Coding conventions are explained in Nurse & Philippson (2003). They are (with invented examples):
A capital letter is added for an additional dialect of an existing language. That is, A15C would be a dialect of language A15 in addition to Guthrie's dialects A15a and A15b.
A third digit is added for an additional language. If its closest relative can be identified, the digit is added to that code. That is, A151 would be a non-Guthrie language closest to Guthrie's A15.
If a close relative has not been identified, the digit is added to the decade code. That is, A101 would be a language geographically in group A10, but not particularly close to any of Guthrie's A10 languages, or not known well enough to further classify.
Pidgins and creoles are indicated by adding a capital letter to the decade code. That is, A10A would be a pidgin or creole based on a language in group A10.