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1 EAE - Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie 2 LACITO - LACITO - Langues et civilisations à tradition orale - UMR 7107

Abstract : Contrary to comon opinion, the Pygmies of the western Congo basin do not speak the same language as their agricultural neighbours but a language of the same family. Their present economy based on a system of barter which, according the oral traditions, is of recent origin does not explain the linguistic situation. The problem of -Pygmy languages- is not to find a genetic relationship nor to reconstruct a proto-language but to analyze the conditions for language borrowing. The paper starts with examining the linguistic situation of the Aka (southern C.A.R., Bantu language CI0) and of the Baka (east Cameroon, Ubangian language of the Gbandili-Sere group) in order to consider the social implications of that situation. At present, the hunting and gathering Pyqmies and the agriculturalist -Grands Noirs- are juxtaposed, with frequent but not general bilingualism and with a great diversity of other languages in contact. There is at present no intention, from one side or another, to belong to the same linguistic community and, on the contrary, the system of -symbiosis- is based upon a very clear ethnic differentiation. The paper shows that the acquisition of a new language by an entire society presupposes a voluntary bilingualism which 16 linked to daily, durable and efficient contacts. Although the economic context for the linguistic borrowing without fusion of races and cultures is unknown, the authors postulate from the oral traditions that the -Grands Noirs- (ancestors of C 10 on the one hand and of the Gbandili-Sere on the other) came from the savannah and encountered the Pygmies since they bagan te penetrate the forest. -lbese two societies, one attracted by metal, the other by the skills of -professional- forest people, associated, one guiding the other across the forest basin. The authors propose the hypothesis of original contact between the two societies at a very remote period, followed .by a long time of cotllJlW1al lite with slow migration and ending in a separation. After that the -Grands Noirs- continued their migration, up to their present locations, whereas the Pygmies dispersed over vast territories and finally entered into contacts with other groups, i.e. the present villagers. With them they established the type of economy for which they are known today.

Mots-clés : linguistique histoire ciontacts de populations chasseurs-collecteurs agriculteurs Afrique centrale forêt équatoriale

Author: Serge Bahuchet - J.M.C. Thomas -



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