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Swahili

(3,815 words)

Author(s): Sergio Baldi
1. Swahili and Arabic Swahili is a Bantu language, more specifically a member of the Sabaki subgroup of North East Coast Bantu. It has been suggested that the ancestor of the modern dialects was spoken in an area along the East African coast, somewhere between the Webi Shebelle River in what is now Somalia and the Tana River in Kenya (Nurse and Spear 1985:46; Nurse and Hinnebusch 1993:490–496). Between 1100 and 1500 C.E., the Swahili dominated trade between the African interior and the Indian Ocean, a hegemony that was interrupted in the 16th century by…
Date: 2018-04-01

Kanuri

(1,685 words)

Author(s): Sergio Baldi
1. Kanuri and Arabic The first contact between Islam and the empire of Kanem, situated near Lake Chad, was made through trade. Kanem had commercial links with Tripoli in North Africa via Kawar and the Fezzan. This trade “provided the gateway for Islam to enter Kanem” (Clarke 1982:67). In the second half of the 8th century, a more permanent Muslim presence was established on the Kanem-North African trade route with the establishment of the small states of Ajar Fazzan and Zawila; Zawila, further south and close to Kanem, was a center for Ibadite Islam. Kanem became Muslim at …
Date: 2018-04-01

Songhay

(2,734 words)

Author(s): Sergio Baldi
1. The Songhay Empire and Islam Songhay is spoken by about 700,000 people in Mali, Niger, Upper Volta, Dahomey, and Nigeria and is the westernmost subgroup of Nilo-Saharan. Its dialects or closely related languages are Dendi (in Dahomey) and Dyerma (Zarma, especially in Niger), and the intercomprehension does not seem total. Songhay was considered an isolated linguistic group until Greenberg classified it as one of the six branches of the Nilo-Saharan family (Tersis 1972:17–18). It is a language relatively little described but on whi…
Date: 2018-04-01