Language in Zambia
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Language in Zambia

Sirarpi Ohannessian, Mubanga E. Kashoki, Sirarpi Ohannessian, Mubanga E. Kashoki

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eBook - ePub

Language in Zambia

Sirarpi Ohannessian, Mubanga E. Kashoki, Sirarpi Ohannessian, Mubanga E. Kashoki

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Originally published in 1978, this volume is divided into 3 parts. Part 1 presents an overview of the linguistic situation in Zambia: who speaks which languages, where they are spoken, what these languages are like. Special emphasis is given to the extensive survey of the languages of the Kafue basin, where extensive changes and relocations have taken place. Part 2 is on language use: patterns of competence and of extension for certain languages in urban settings, configurations of comprehension across language boundaries, how selected groups of multilinguals employ each of their languages and for what purposes, what languages are used in radio and television broadcasting and how decisions to use or not use a language are made. Part 3 involves language and formal education: what languages, Zambian and foreign, are used at various levels int he schools, which are taught, with what curricula, methods, how teachers are trained, how issues such as adult literacy are approached and with what success.

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Publisher
Routledge
Year
2017
ISBN
9781351605168

PART ONE

LANGUAGES OF ZAMBIA

1 THE LANGUAGE SITUATION IN ZAMBIA

Mubanga E. Kashoki
1.0 Introduction
One of the questions most frequently asked about the language situation in Zambia is: “How many languages are there in this country?” This is an easy question to ask, but one to which there is no correspondingly easy answer. Firstly, as we shall discuss at greater length later in the next chapter, it is still a moot point as to what constitutes a language and what constitutes a dialect.
Apart from the dilemma of definition, there is áso the problem of confusing two quite different, though related, concepts: language and tribe. The confusion often arises out of a general tendency to regard language as being invariably synonymous with tribe. This may explain in part why the claim persists that there are seventy-three languages in Zambia, a figure which corresponds exactly with the number of tribes officially recognised by the Zambian Government. The point is also worth noting that despite research already carried out (including that reported in the present volume) designed to investigate the overall language situation in Zambia, a comprehensive language survey covering the entire country has yet to be undertaken.
In this chapter, it is our intention merely to provide a brief sketch of the language situation in Zambia, particularly as we observed it at the time of the survey. In Chapter 2, we shall attempt to give a more detailed account of the languages of those provinces which we were able to visit and about which, therefore, we were able to gather some linguistic data and there we shall describe, for example, the sound systems of the languages we observed, their morphology and syntax, and selected vocabulary correspondences.
2.0 A Brief Historical Note on the Peoples of Zambia
To understand the present language situation in Zambia, it is perhaps first necessary that we attempt to provide a brief historical background. Such a background might also be useful in providing a clue, even if only a partial one, to the existing patterns of human settlement which bear directly on the present-day language situation.
Although information on the historical origins of the peoples of Zambia in most cases is only tentative and provisional at the present moment, it is now generally accepted, and a considerable amount of literature exists (see bibliography at the end of this chapter) to support the theory that the majority of the present Bantu language groups in Zambia, particularly in the northern, eastern and western parts of the country, migrated from the southern part of Zaire (formerly the Congo).
The others not derived from the Congo appear to have originated either from the north in East Africa (e.g. the Mambwe and the Inamwanga) or from the south (e.g. the Ngoni of the Eastern Province) or from the east (e.g. the Tumbuka). The migration into Zambia of the Bantu peoples probably began early in the Iron Age, during the first few centuries A.D. According to D. W. Phillipson (1972 pp. 9–10),
At about the beginning of the second millennium A.D. appeared the first settlement of the later Iron Age people who seem, archaeologically speaking, to be directly ancestral to many sections of the present Zambian population. On the Copperbelt and around Lusaka the later Iron Age was established by the 12th century and a similar date seems probable over most of the eastern half of Zambia. It was among these people that immigrant groups later established states and kingdoms whose history is preserved in the traditions of Zambian peoples.
These traditions invariably trace the origins of the immigrant groups from the Luba and Lunda empires which flourished round about the 15th and 16th centuries in the Upper Congo basin. The arrival in Zambia of immigrant groups of Congolese origin is thought to have taken place between the 16th and 19th centuries (cf. Roberts 1966, p. 103). Migration dates for groups of non-Congolese origin are even more difficult to establish.
The process of migration was rather a haphazard one. The people of Zambia evidently arrived in the country at different periods, in varying numbers, and under different circumstances. Even after arriving in the country, the process of migration did not cease but went on apace due to a variety of factors, the principal one being the wars which the groups waged against one another from time to time. The result was minor or sometimes significant shifts in population so that today we are able to observe a great mixture of peoples within Zambia, particularly in the Northwestern and Western Provinces where very often people speaking different languages live side by side either in the same village or in different villages located in the same area. This, together with other factors to be considered later, has given rise to a highly complex language situation in the country. For example, in writing about the Luvale and other migrant language groups now resident in the Western Province, Fortune (1970, p. 31), has observed that “in addition to the people who speak the languages which have been there for a considerable time, immigrants speaking foreign languages are present in considerable numbers”.
The continuous and small-scale character of migration also had its effect on social organisation. The present so-called “tribes” of Zambia are the result of human movements and social changes throughout the pre-colonial past, and even during the present century. Many Zambian peoples acquired their present sense of tribal identity as a result of being united together under the rule of a particular clan or royal dynasty. For example, the Bisa were ruled by chiefs of the Mushroom (ŋona) clan; all the Bemba were subjects of one king, Chitimukulu.
In the case of some tribes, it is not easy to explain just how they have come to be distinguished from one another; it is usually partly a matter of language and partly a matter of cultural and political institutions. The main point is that this process of tribal grouping is itself continuous and subject to change. It is unlikely that any of the modern tribes, as distinct from social groups, are more than a few centuries old. It would certainly be incorrect to think of whole tribes migrating from the Congo.
Stories of tribal migration invariably refer to the immigration only of small groups of people who founded chieftainships, mostly perhaps in the 17th and 18th centuries. Recent research into oral traditions has tended to confirm the archaeological evidence that, long before the present chiefdoms were founded, most of Zambia was inhabited by people similar in culture to peoples of more recent times.1
The resultant groupings of immigrants from the Congo into more or less distinct language groups include the Lamba of the Copperbelt Province; the Cewa, Nsenga, Kunda and Senga of the Eastern Province (but not the Tumbuka who are of an eastern Bantu origin); the Aushi, Lunda and Ng’umbo of the Luapula Province (but not the Twa of the Bangweulu swamps); the Bemba, the Bisa and Lala (including their offshoots, the Swaka) of the Northern Province (but not the Mambwe, Inamwanga, and Nyiha in the Mbala and Isoka districts); the Lunda, Luvale, Cokwe, and Kaonde of the Northwestern Province; and the Luyana peoples (e.g. Kwandi, Kwangwa, Mb owe, etc.) of the Western Province.
As a special case, there is little in the available literature to shed useful light on the Twa, except that they are generally considered to be the surviving remnants of the nomadic Bushmen who inhabited Zambia long before the taller, more powerful, and better organised Bantu peoples began to arrive.
Today the Twa are to be found in three main locations, the Bangweulu swamps (the largest group), the Kafue Flats, and the Lukanga swamps, where they apparently took refuge from the encroachments of the new arrivals. In language and culture they have adapted to a considerable degree to that of the surrounding tribes, so that, as Dr. Lehmann has shown in Chapter 3, the speech of the Twa in the Kafue and Lukanga swamps is today similar to that of the neighbouring Tonga, Ila and Lenje. Similarly, the Twa in the Bangweulu swamps are according to Brelsford (1956, p. 110) “culturally, linguistically and ethnologically part of the surrounding tribes”.
While it is generally accepted that the Tonga and their neighbours (e.g. the Ila and Lenje) of the Southern and Central Provinces, called until recently Bantu Botatwe (their phrase for “three people”), are related, very little as yet is known about their early origins. There are tentative suggestions that they, like the Inamwanga and Mambwe, are of an E...

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