A Grammatical Sketch of Mbugwe (Bantu F.34, Tanzania)

ISBN 978-3-89645-048-7

A Grammatical Sketch of Mbugwe (Bantu F.34, Tanzania)

Author: Maarten Mous. Series edited by: Wilhelm J.G. Möhlig †, Bernd Heine.

Series: GA Grammatical Analyses of African Languages Volume 23

8 pp. Roman, 70 pp.
12 tables, three texts with songs, including interlinear glossing and free translation, 13 riddles, vocabulary Mbugwe-English, English-Mbugwe index
Text language(s): English
Format: 160 x 240 mm
170 g
€ 34.80

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The Mbugwe (according to Guthrie F.34) form a small ethnic group that live in Tanzania, Arusha province, Babati district, around the town of Magugu, in the villages Mwada and Mdori, and others. The Mbugwe numbered about 10,000 in 1910 according to Dempwolff (1915/16:1) but only 5,000 in 1967, and at that time this number was on the decline. For 1999 SIL estimates 24,000 speakers, and so it is still an endangered language. According to some oral traditions the Mbugwe are originally Rangi people that moved northwards in search of salt and then settled there.

The neighbours of the Mbugwe are all non-Bantu (Nilotic Datooga, Cushitic Iraqw). However, the present situation shows a different type of language contact: as a consequence of recent settlement of people from various parts of Tanzania in this rice-growing region the Mbugwe language is increasingly under pressure from Swahili. The present study is based on a short period of fieldwork in 1993. The poor state of documentation of this interesting language justifies the publication of this grammatical sketch which allows a short view on the richness of the Mbugwe.

The book offers an outline of the phonological and grammatical features of this small and understudied language. In addition to the grammatical sketch, three texts with interlinear glossing and free translation are included, as well as a Mbugwe-English lexicon with an English index added. This study is written to stimulate others to study Mbugwe and to undertake the task of writing a fuller grammar of this interesting language.

Under these links you will find publications by the author and descriptions of the languages of neighbouring ethnic groups:

Accompanying material:



Maarten Mous’ short book in Köppe’s popular series of grammatical sketches addresses this challenge, and provides us with more information about Mbugwe. The book contains an overview of the grammatical structures of Mbugwe (Phonology, The Verb, Nouns and Nominals, Other Words, and Syntax being the relevant sections), a section with three texts (which, however, I found a bit hard to follow at times), including glossing and translation, and a short Mbugwe-English dictionary with an English-Mbugwe index. [...]

In conclusion, then, this short sketch of Mbugwe contains plenty of intriguing material and provides a good first introduction to the main structures of the language. It will lead no doubt to further descriptive, analytical and comparative studies.

Lutz Marten in Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, 27/2, 2006, 205-208

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