Bantu and Meroitic Cognates

THE KISWAHILI-BANTU RESEARCH UNIT

FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF

THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN LANGUAGE

Researched by Ferg Somo July 2008

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The Meroitic language is a Nubian language and was spoken during the Meroitic period around 300BC to approximately 400AD. The language was written in the Meroitic script which is similar to the Ancient Egyptian writing script. (See script at the end of the article)

The Meroitic language is a dead language and its linguistic connections to other languages in Africa is difficult to ascertain. However some linguists have suggested that the Meroitic language may be a Nilo-Saharan language and could even be related to the Afro-Asiatic languages of Africa.

I have examined the linguist, Dr Clyde Winter's research on the Meroitic language and have studied the Meroitic word list given by him on the following site: http://www.arkamani.org/arkamani-library/meroitic/Kalabsha.htm

I have discovered a few words which seem to have a common connection between Meroitic and Bantu. The Meroitic word for 'to bend, to incline given as NM is equivalent to the Kiswahili-Bantu word NEMA or INAMA which means 'bend', 'bend down', 'yield'. Another word given as SH means 'KING'. This is equivalent to the Shona-Bantu word SHE or ISHE which means a CHIEF. The next example of a Meroitic word which fits the Tsonga-Bantu language is the duplicated word NENE which means 'good'. This is equivalent to Meroitic NE for 'good'. 'Goodness' in Meroitic given as NN is equivalent with Tsonga-Bantu given as Vu-NENE.

The following table of lexical correspondences between Meroitic and North Eastern Sudanic languages are the researches of the linguist Claude Rilly on the Meroitic language taken from the on-line site http://www.arkamani.org/arkamani-library/meroitic/rilly.htm

I have investigated some of the correspondences given by Claude Rilly in the table below and searched for possible cognates in the Bantu languages of Africa. This has never been attempted before as far as I am aware. Not all the examples have been studied since the nature of the Meroitic language remains a conundrum.

Claude Rilly’s table compares correspondences between Proto-North Eastern Sudanic, shown as Proto-nes in the table, Nara, a Nilo-Saharan language spoken in West Eritrea, Proto-Nubian, Proto-Taman and Nyima. All these languages may be classified as Nilo-Saharan.  

Some Examples of Lexical Correspondences

Between Meroitic and North Eastern Sudanic

Meroitic

Proto-nes

Nara

Proto-Nubian

Proto-Taman

Nyima

are [e r]

*ar

"take"

(hind)

"take"

*aar-

"take"

ε r-

"buy"

-

dm-[d,am]

"take, receive"

*dom-

"pick up, take"

mem-

"pick up, take"

*dumm-

"pick up, take"

-

dumud-

"pick up"

hre [xar]

"meal"

*go(o)r

"eat (tough food)

-

goor

"gnaw"

-

t orom / kworom

"gnaw"

kdi [kadi]or[Kandi]

"woman"

*kari or *kandi

"woman"

kede

"sister"

*kari

"female"

-

ke r

"woman"

ked-[ked,]or[ke d,]

"slaughter"

*kod-

"slaughter"

kad-

"slaughter"

*n od-

"slaughter"

-

t ai- / kai-

"slaughter"

wle [wal]

"dog"

*wel

"dog"

(wos)

"dog"

*wel

"dog"

(*wiis)

"dog"

wtl (A)

"dog"

yer[era]or[ira]

"milk"

*er-

"milk","breast"

(sa)

"milk"

er-ti

"breasts"

(*sun)

"milk"

élo

"milk"

Apede-[e bed, e]

in Apede-mak

(mk "god")

*Ebede

"Creator God"

Ebbere

"God"

*Ebed-

"God"

-

Abidi

"Creator God"

BANTU ANALYSIS

 'KADI'

THE MEROITIC WORD FOR WOMAN = PROTO-BANTU WORD FOR WOMAN

Meroitic

Proto-nes

Nara

Proto-Nubian

Proto-Taman

Nyima

kdi [kadi]or[Kandi]

"woman"

*kari or *kandi

"woman"

kede

"sister"

*kari

"female"

-

ke r

"woman"

Consider the table taken from above showing the word for a 'woman'. The transliterated skeletal consonants kd ending in i stand for a woman/female. This is equivalent to ‘KADI’ in Proto-Bantu. Refer to Proto-Bantu table below.    

 PROTO-BANTU TABLE

↓↓↓

MAIN

1674

HH

N 1/2

woman, wife

A B C D H J K L M N S

COMP

1679

HHHL

N (1/2)

girl; daughter-in-law

J K L M S

COMP

9115

H

V

be old (woman)

 

COMP

9296

HHH

N

co-wife

J

COMP

9299

HHHH

N 1

old woman

D E F G J M N P S

COMP

9300

HHL

N

woman

A B C H K L M R

DER

1676

HH

A

female

A D J L S

DER

1677

HH

N 9/10

sister

A B D M

INC

1675

HH

N 1/2

wife

 

REF

1643

H

N 1/2

wife

 

REF

1644

H

N 1/2

wife of

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations of KADI in current day Bantu languages include the following derived forms: Mu-Kadi, Mu-Kazi, Mu-Kati, and Mwana-Kashi.

HR, THE MEROITIC WORD FOR 'MEAL'

Meroitic

Proto-nes

Nara

Proto-Nubian

Proto-Taman

Nyima

hre [xar]

"meal"

*go(o)r

"eat (tough food)

-

goor

"gnaw"

-

t orom / kworom

"gnaw"

Claude Rilly connects this to ‘eat (tough food)’ and gnaw in the various Nilio-Saharan languages.

The Setswana-Bantu language gives the word, HURA as ‘gnaw’, chew hard food as berries; chew mealies as a horse. Thus HURA gives a close fit to Claude Rilley’s analysis of the Meroitic word for food HR. This word is equivalent to HORA in the Sesuto-Bantu language having the meaning of ‘to lick a pot clean’ clearly this is also a valid approximation to Claude Rilley’s rendering. 

 WAL, THE MEROITIC WORD FOR DOG

Meroitic

Proto-nes

Nara

Proto-Nubian

Proto-Taman

Nyima

wle [wal]

"dog"

*wel

"dog"

(wos)

"dog"

*wel

"dog"

(*wiis)

"dog"

wtl (A)

"dog"

The Proto-Bantu word for a dog is derived from the bark of a dog which is given as ‘wa’ or ‘ua’. This in turn gives the Proto-Bantu word for a dog as, m-bua or m-bwa. However in the Luvale Bantu language the word for a dog is given by the root -wa, prefixed by ka to give Ka-waa, 'the barker'. It seems highly likely that the Nilo-Saharan words used for a dog contain the consonant w to form the sound of a barking dog whilst attaching different endings to the root.  

 PROTO-BANTU TABLE

↓↓↓

MAIN

282

HL

N 9/10, 12/13

dog

A B C D E F G H J K L M N P R S

COMP

4736

HLHL

N 7

pup

J

DER

4733

H_H_

N 3

jackal

D G K L S

DER

4734

HLHL

N 6

dog-milk

J

DER

4735

H

V

bring forth (dog)

J

REF

361

HL

N (1a/2), 9/10

dog

 

DM, THE MEROITIC WORD FOR ‘TAKE, RECEIVE’ 

Meroitic

Proto-nes

Nara

Proto-Nubian

Proto-Taman

Nyima

dm-[d,am]

"take, receive"

*dom-

"pick up, take"

mem-

"pick up, take"

*dumm-

"pick up, take"

-

dumud-

"pick up"

Consider the Meroitic words ‘take, receive’ given by the skeletal consonants dm as shown in the table. In the Kiswahili-Bantu language the word duma means take forcible hold of, catch hold of, take, seize, receive. The word duma is not listed in common dictionaries, but may be found in the following dictionaries: Kamusi ya Visawe, or Kamusi ya Kiswahili-Sanifu. Here are a few Kiswahili-Bantu words which give the same meaning as ‘duma’ = kamata = shika = pata.

Thus the word duma gives a close linguistic match with the Nilo-Saharan language.

YER, THE MEROITIC WORD FOR MILK, BREAST  

Meroitic

Proto-nes

Nara

Proto-Nubian

Proto-Taman

Nyima

yer[era]or[ira]

"milk"

*er-

"milk","breast"

(sa)

"milk"

er-ti

"breasts"

(*sun)

"milk"

élo

"milk"

The word used for the breast is closely related to the word for milk. The Proto-Bantu word for breast or milk is given by beede as seen in the table.  

PROTO-BANTU TABLE

 ↓↓↓

MAIN

125

HLL

N 5/6

breast, udder

A B C D E F G H J K L M N P R S

DER

127

HLL

N 6

milk

A B C F G J K L M R

However there are variations from the Proto-Bantu forms when pronouncing present day words as may be seen in the following examples. Note consonants l and r are freely interchangeable.

Yer, milk, Meroitic

B-ere, W-ere, breast, also milk ChiChewa-Bantu

V-ele, breast, Tsonga-Bantu

V-ele (li-vele), breast, Luvale-Bantu 

Ma-Vele, milk, Luvale Bantu

B-ere, breast, Tumbuka-Bantu

eV-ere, breast, Rukwangali-Bantu

Lizw-ele, breast, Silozi-Bantu

Eib-eere, breast, Rukinga-Bantu

ib-ele, breast, Chi-Bemba-Bantu

The comparisons of these Bantu forms of words which relate to milk or the breast with the Nilo-Saharan languages, give a close fit and would suggest a probable connection.  

 AR, THE MEROITIC WORD FOR BOY

Claude Rilly also includes the word AR meaning boy. In the Kuria-Bantu language ARA is the word for, ‘the son of’. In the Southern-Sotho-Bantu language the word for, a son is Mo-ra. A son being a male child is synonymous with the word ‘boy’.

The above analysis of words may suggest that the Meroitic language does have a distant connection with the Bantu languages of Africa, and further research in this field would be welcome. 

THE MEROITIC SCRIPT

References:

Dr Clyde Winters:  http://www.arkamani.org/arkamani-library/meroitic/Kalabsha.htm

http://209.85.135.104/search?q=cache:Ld93Hkx3gB0J:www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Bay/7051/mero.htm+meroitic+script&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=7&gl=uk

The Linguistic position of Meroitic. Claude Rilly 

http://www.arkamani.org/arkamani-library/meroitic/rilly.htm

Bantu Lexical Reconstructions 3 http://www.metafro.be/blr

 

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Researched by FERG SOMO © July 2008