A diachronic phonological and morphological approach to the classification of Teke languages within West-Coastal Bantu

December 2020 to June 2023
phonological variations
bantu lexical reconstruction
varieties of Teke language
Université de Kinshasa (Congo-Kinshasa)
Institut Supérieur Pédagogique de la Gombe (Kinshasa) (Congo-Kinshasa)
Université Marien Ngouabi (Congo-Brazzaville)
Research fields
Languages and Literatures
The Teke languages are a contiguous cluster of closely related Bantu languages spoken in adjacent parts of Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville and Congo-Kinshasa. In the referential classification of the Bantu languages (Guthrie 1971, Maho 2009), they constitute the B70 Teke group. Genealogically speaking, they belong to the so-called “West-Coastal” (Vansina 1995, Bastin et al. 1999) or “West-Western” (Grollemund et al. 2015) branch of the Bantu family. In the latest phylogenetic of West-Coastal Bantu by Pacchiarotti et al. (2019), Teke languages belong to the so-called “Kasai-Ngounie Extended” sub-branch. However, in terms of basic vocabulary, they turn out to be too diverse to constitute a discrete genealogical subgroup within that sub-branch, which is in line with the study of Hombert (1987) showing considerable discrepancies between Teke languages when it comes to progressive nasalization. The historical-comparative linguistic research of Guy Kouarata within the BantuFirst project consists of a diachronic phonological and morphological approach to the classification of Teke languages within West-Coastal Bantu. He compares Kasai-Ngounie Extended languages in order to identify shared phonological and morphological innovations allowing to shed new light on the genealogical position of Teke languages within that sub-branch and to assess the impact of language contact on their evolution. In order to fill gaps in the existing documentation, Guy Kouarata carried out in 2021 a fieldwork mission in Congo-Kinshasa and Congo-Brazzaville during which he collected new lexical data on 11 Teke languages that have been either poorly or not described.