The past and present of Bantu languages. Integrating micro-typology, historical-comparative linguistics and lexicography

Start - End 
2021 - 2023 (ongoing)



Today’s ~550 Bantu languages constitute Africa’s largest family. The spread of Bantu speech communities from the Nigeria-Cameroon border area towards Eastern and Southern Africa, which is thought to have started ~4000 years ago, had a momentous impact on the continent’s linguistic, demographic and cultural landscape. The Bantu Expansion is unique among ancient dispersals due to its high amplitude, rapid pace and adaptation to multiple ecozones.

When it comes to studying Bantu languages, today’s internationally most renowned centres in Asia and continental Europe are no doubt ILCAA in Tokyo (Japan) and BantUGent in Ghent (Belgium) respectively. While ILCAA has focused on Bantu micro-typology over the past few years and BantUGent on historical linguistics, the two teams share Bantu lexicography as a research tradition. Through this collaboration, we will consolidate previous exchanges within other networks and better integrate micro-typology, historical linguistics and lexicography to examine the past and present of Bantu languages.

Through the exchanges planned we will unite our strengths to come to a better understanding of how migration and contact have influenced language change subsequent to the Bantu Expansion. In line with the areal foci of both teams, we focus on East Bantu languages of East Africa (Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi) and Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana), and West-Coastal Bantu languages of Central Africa (Gabon, Congo, DRC, Angola).





Phd Student(s)



Nobuko Yoneda

Osaka University Graduate School of Language and Culture Studies in Language and Society

Daisuke Shinagawa

Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA), Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS)