Great Lakes Bantu languages

The Great Lakes Bantu languages, also known as Lacustrine Bantu and Bantu zone J, are a group of Bantu languages of East Africa. They were recognized as a group by the Tervuren team, who posited them as an additional zone (zone J) to Guthrie’s largely geographic classification of Bantu.


By 500BC, proto-Great Lakes Bantu speakers initially settled between Lakes Kivu and Rweru in Rwanda, before rapidly spreading as far east as Kenya.


The languages are, according to Bastin, Coupez, & Mann (1999), with Sumbwa added per Nurse (2003):

(See also Rutara languagesRunyakitara languageNkore-Kiga)

The codes in parentheses are Guthrie’s original geographic classification.

Maho (2009) adds YakaKobo was recognized later. It’s said to be about equidistant between Nande and Hunde, so it’s not clear where it should be in the tree above.

Glottolog (2022) separates Nyole in Uganda (and its dialects: Hadyo or LuhadyoMenyaSabi or Lusabi, and Wesa or Luwesa) from the E30 group (Masaba-Luhya) into an unclassified subgroup within a “Greater Luyia” group containing the Logoo-Kuria (E40) group. Beside this, it does not consider this older geographic classification relevant for its ongoing classification based on more recent linguistic studies, and uses four different subgroups (Greater Luhya, West Nyanza, East Nyanza, and Western Lakes Bantu), keeping Gungu (E10) separate from them.

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