Grassfields Bantu languages

Grassfields Bantu languages
Grassfields Bantu, Semi-Bantu
Nigeria and Cameroon
Linguistic classification: Niger–Congo
  • Atlantic–Congo
    • Benue–Congo
      • Bantoid
        • Southern Bantoid
          • Grassfields
Narrow Grassfields

The Grassfields or Grassfields Bantu languages, spoken in the Western grassfields of Cameroon, are a branch of Benue–Congo and a sister group to the Bantu languages. Better-known Grassfields peoples include the Eastern Grassfields languages Bamun, Yamba, and Bamileke, and the Ring language Kom.

The languages are closely related, sharing approximately half of their vocabulary.[1]

The Grassfields languages were previously known as Grassfields Bantu and Semi-Bantu. They are sometimes classified on two levels, Wide Grassfields, which includes all the languages, and Narrow Grassfields, which excludes Menchum, Ambele, and sometimes the Southwestern Grassfields languages. These may form a group of their own, which Nurse (2003) calls Peripheral Grassfields but rejects.

Blench (2010) notes there is little evidence for the traditional assumption that Momo belongs in Grassfields, and that it may actually be closer to the poorly established Tivoid group; Western Momo is therefore renamed Southwest Grassfields to avoid confusion, and only Menchum and Ambele are left out of Narrow Grassfields. The classification of Amebele is unclear, though it is clearly divergent, and Menchum may be closer to the Tivoid languages (Blench 2011).

The Eastern Grassfields languages share nasal noun-class prefixes with the Bantu languages, which are not found in the other branches of Grassfields. However, they appear to be more closely related to the rest of Grassfields than they are to Bantu.


  1. ^ Derek Nurse & Gérard Philippson, 2003, The Bantu Languages, p 227

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