This question is inspired by this answer. I wondered whether bod in the Beti language translates human and/or being just because it's reminiscent of body like everybody. Then I remembered Bantu means people; Portuguese bunda "butt, ass" is related to some Bantu dialects' mbunda (?). This one is strange, because the dialect's name Kimbundu and its branch Umbundu contain this root, as if comparable to Bantu, but Portuguese dictionaries claim the Kimbundu as source and gloss the source likewise with "butt".

Nevertheless, other parallels catch the eye, e.g. Atiñ 1 "article 1". Looking for a dictionary I only found an appendix of a dissertation about a related language, in which ŋkúŋ (ngkung) "king" exists [1]. Also, gbúŋ "mountain", reminds me of Ger. "Umgebung", if I try hard enough, which is patently absurd, to be honest. Nevertheless an influence due to colonization is thinkable, especially on the related pidgin language (Ewondo populair, see wp).

So, are there enough parallels that contamination was proposed?

I found a typological comparison (paywalled) that acknowledges similarities, but without genetic perspective (" ... providing a framework for much-needed further comparative research on the nature of linguistic structure ...") [2]. That kind of implies that a systematic influence were inconceivable.

[1] Aspects of the phonology of Fáŋ, p. 145, p, 151.

[2] The Bantu–Romance Connection: A comparative investigation of verbal agreement, DPs, and information structure

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    At least one problem with this is that "bantu" has the structure "ba-ntu", where ba is a plural classifier prefix and ntu is the root meaning 'human' (singular "mu-ntu"), which removes any resemblance to the IE words. Dec 26, 2018 at 16:21
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    @MarkBeadles Absolutely true, but the presence of a noun class prefix doesn't rule out loanwords. Look at Kiswahili ki-tabu with the class 7 prefix ki-, borrowed from Arabic kitaab.
    – Draconis
    Dec 27, 2018 at 0:01

2 Answers 2


There absolutely are loanwords from Indo-European in most (if not all) Bantu languages, mostly from the days of colonization. Many of them have been naturalized to the point that it's no longer obvious they're loanwords: Lingála bo-nané "New Year's Day" has the class prefix bo-, for example, which masks the fact that it's loaned from French bonne année. Similarly, mo-tokaa "car" has the class prefix mo-, but is loaned from English "motor car".

Nowadays, the biggest source of IE loanwords is English: the Kiswahili spoken in the cities of Kenya and Tanzania tends to be mixed with a large amount of English, for example, which has led to the creation of blended codes like Sheng. Even in "standard" Kiswahili more and more English has been bleeding in, such as the loan Januari displacing native mwezi wa kwanza ("first moon").

For one especially amusing example, the word for "people" in Kiswahili is wa-tu (from PB *ba-ntu, as Kiswahili has lost prenasalized voiceless consonants, and initial *b lenited). But the word "Bantu" has now been borrowed back from English as wa-Bantu (with the class prefix for groups of people). So the same word has two forms of the same morpheme, one from the current language and one from the reconstructed proto-language!


The underlying idea as reflected in the book which you mention is that all human languages a similar in certain ways. There is no specific claim of historical special relatedness of contact between the languages, instead, there was a recognition by some Bantuists and Romance-ist that it would be fruitful to combine research efforts to understand those similarities (in three specific areas – clitics and pro drop, DP structure, and topic/focus).

There certainly are some borrowings from European languages, for example Ntumu (one of the Beti-Fang languages) has kusínâ 'kitchen', sɔ́bɔ̂ 'soap'. There are also words that just look like loans, for example Lingala bwato 'canoe' which is /bo-ato/ does not derive from French bateau. There are also fanciful relation such as Ntumu aki meaning "egg" (the root, widely distributed in Bantu, is -gi, and a- is a noun class prefix in Ntumi that makes the word look more like "egg"). It is impossible to find any Bantu language that has no borrowings from another language; though as far as I can tell, there are no French loan words in the Luyia languagages (plenty of Swahili and English words).

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