‘Similar’ Language Contact But ‘Different’ Language Change: Historical Lessons from Loanwords in Tanzanian Bantu Communities

Amani M Lusekelo


This paper contributes to the on-going discussion about integration of foreign cultures into African communities, one of the areas documented by Sam Maghimbi. It articulates the results of human contacts through examination of loanwords for similar semantic notions across Bantu languages of Tanzania. The rationale for this study emanates from a lacuna in previous works that focused on phonological and morphological changes, and undervalued the power of internal semantic modifications that accommodate new concepts. The paper analyses loanwords of individual words that surround three contact areas: western (formal) education, Christian religion, and (modern) healthcare. The paper shows that contact situations may lead to adoption of new words in some cases, or adjustments of the semantics of existing lexicons to accommodate new concepts, in other instances. In addition, it argues that Bantu languages differ significantly as regards the sources and flow of integration of new concepts.


languages contact, cultural integration, historical linguistics, loanwords, Tanzanian Bantu

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