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How the 'savanna corridor' facilitated the Bantu expansion: a lexical approach to pioneer tree species

Koen Bostoen UGent (2012) Impact d'une crise environnementale majeure sur les espèces, les populations et les communautés : la fragmentation de la forêt africaine à la fin de l'Holocène.
abstract
Numerous palynological and geological studies testify to serious climatic disturbance leading to a catastrophic destruction of the Central-African forests in the regions of south Cameroon, south Central African Republic, Gabon and the Congo that started about 2500 years ago and lasted for 500 years or a bit longer depending on the region. This climatic disturbance was characterized by a more accentuated seasonality and led to the emergence of the so-called ‘savannah corridor’ in between forest refuge zones (Maley 2004, Maley & Brenac 1998, Ngomanda et al. 2009, Reynaud-Farrera et al. 1996, Vincens et al. 1994, Vincens et al. 1998). Several scholars have suggested that this corridor may have facilitated the migration of people from the northern savannas, in casu Bantu speech communities (Maley 2001, Schwartz 1992). This savannah corridor may thus have played an important role in the Bantu expansion and could in one way or the other be reflected in the internal Bantu classification. If this ‘savannah corridor’ did indeed shape historical relationships between Bantu languages, remaining traces are likely to be found in current-day Bantu languages. This is certainly so if one considers Bantu vocabulary for the so-called ‘pioneer species’ and their geographical distribution patterns among present-day Bantu languages. Plant names may serve as indicators of the complex stratified language history underlying the current Bantu language landscape (cf. Bostoen 2007). Pioneer species are trees that colonize natural forest gaps as well as deforested areas and dominate the early and middle stages of secondary succession. The botanical genera Cecropia and Musanga include very important pioneer species that colonize cleared and open areas with high light levels, respectively in tropical America and Africa. In this paper, we focus on one specific species, i.e. Musanga cecropioides, Two distinct sets of cognate Bantu terms occur among several present-day Bantu languages of West Central Africa (cf. Koni Muluwa 2010), one of which is reconstructible to Proto-Bantu, while the other is a later lexical innovation. This suggests that Bantu speakers were familiar with this species before they started to migrate from their homeland in the Cameroonian-Nigerian borderland, but that it disappeared from the habitat of a subset of them to be re-introduced only later. This is of high relevance for the ‘savannah corridor’ hypothesis. References: Bostoen, K. 2007. Bantu Plant Names as Indicators of Linguistic Stratigraphy in the Western Province of Zambia. In D. Payne (ed.), Selected Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference on African Linguistics, 16-29. Somerville: Cascadilla Press. Koni Muluwa, J. 2010. Plantes, animaux et champignons en langues bantu. Etude comparée de phytonymes, zoonymes et myconymes en nsong, ngong, mpiin, mbuun et hungan (Bandundu, RD Congo). thèse de doctorat dissertation, Université libre de Bruxelles. Maley, J. 2001. La destruction catastrophique des forêts d'Afrique centrale survenue il y a environ 2500 ans exerce encore une influence majeure sur la répartition actuelle des formations végétales. Syst. & Geogr. Plants 71, 777-96. Maley, J. 2004. Les variations de la végétation et des paléoenvironnements du domaine forestier africain au cours du Quaternaire récent. In A.-M. Sémah & J. L. Renault-Miskovsky (eds.), Évolution de la Végétation Depuis Deux Millions d'années, 143-78. Paris: Artcom / Errance. Maley, J. & P. Brenac. 1998. Vegetation dynamics, palaeoenvironments and climatic changes in the forests of West Cameroon during the last 28,000 years BP. Review of Palaeobotany & Palynology 99, 157-87. Ngomanda, A., K. Neumann, A. Schweizer & J. Maley. 2009. Seasonality change and the third millennium BP rainforest crisis in southern Cameroon (Central Africa). Quaternary Research 71, 307–18. Reynaud-Farrera, I., J. Maley & D. Wirrmann. 1996. Végétation et climat dans les forêts du Sud-Ouest Cameroun depuis 4770 ans B.P: analyse pollinique des sédiments du Lac Ossa. Comptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences, Series IIA, Earth and Planetary Science 322, 749-55. Schwartz, D. 1992. Assèchement climatique vers 3000 B.P. et expansion Bantu en Afrique centrale atlantique: quelques réflexion. Bulletin de la Societé Géologique de France 163, 353-61. Vincens, A., G. Buchet, H. Elenga, M. Fournier, L. Martin, C. De Namur, D. Schwartz, M. Servant & D. Wirrmann. 1994. Changement majeur de la végétation du lac Sinnda (vallée du Niari, Sud Congo) consécutif à un l'assèchement climatique holocène supérieur: apport de la palynologie. Comptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences, Series IIA, Earth and Planetary Science 318, 1521-6. Vincens, A., D. Schwartz, J. Bertaux, H. Elenga & C. De Namur. 1998. Late Holocene climatic changes in Western Equatorial Africa inferred from pollen from Lake Sinnda, Southern Congo. Quaternary Research 50, 34-45.
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
year
type
conference
publication status
unpublished
subject
keyword
Bantu Expansion, pioneer tree species, vegatation change, climate change
in
Impact d'une crise environnementale majeure sur les espèces, les populations et les communautés : la fragmentation de la forêt africaine à la fin de l'Holocène
conference name
Colloque de l’Académie des Sciences : Impact d'une crise environnementale majeure sur les espèces, les populations et les communautés : la fragmentation de la forêt africaine à la fin de l'Holocène = The impact of a major environmental crisis on species, populations and communities : the fragmentation of African forests at the end of the Holocene
conference location
Paris, France
conference start
2012-03-01
conference end
2012-03-02
project
KONGOKING (Political centralization, economic integration and language evolution in Central Africa: An interdisciplinary approach to the early history of the Kongo kingdom.)
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
C3
id
2058091
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-2058091
date created
2012-03-04 22:35:10
date last changed
2013-02-19 15:07:43
@inproceedings{2058091,
  abstract     = {Numerous palynological and geological studies testify to serious climatic disturbance leading to a catastrophic destruction of the Central-African forests in the regions of south Cameroon, south Central African Republic, Gabon and the Congo that started about 2500 years ago and lasted for 500 years or a bit longer depending on the region. This climatic disturbance was characterized by a more accentuated seasonality and led to the emergence of the so-called {\textquoteleft}savannah corridor{\textquoteright} in between forest refuge zones (Maley 2004, Maley \& Brenac 1998, Ngomanda et al. 2009, Reynaud-Farrera et al. 1996, Vincens et al. 1994, Vincens et al. 1998). Several scholars have suggested that this corridor may have facilitated the migration of people from the northern savannas, in casu Bantu speech communities (Maley 2001, Schwartz 1992). This savannah corridor may thus have played an important role in the Bantu expansion and could in one way or the other be reflected in the internal Bantu classification. If this {\textquoteleft}savannah corridor{\textquoteright} did indeed shape historical relationships between Bantu languages, remaining traces are likely to be found in current-day Bantu languages. This is certainly so if one considers Bantu vocabulary for the so-called {\textquoteleft}pioneer species{\textquoteright} and their geographical distribution patterns among present-day Bantu languages. Plant names may serve as indicators of the complex stratified language history underlying the current Bantu language landscape (cf. Bostoen 2007). Pioneer species are trees that colonize natural forest gaps as well as deforested areas and dominate the early and middle stages of secondary succession. The botanical genera Cecropia and Musanga include very important pioneer species that colonize cleared and open areas with high light levels, respectively in tropical America and Africa. In this paper, we focus on one specific species, i.e. Musanga cecropioides, Two distinct sets of cognate Bantu terms occur among several present-day Bantu languages of West Central Africa (cf. Koni Muluwa 2010), one of which is reconstructible to Proto-Bantu, while the other is a later lexical innovation.  This suggests that Bantu speakers were familiar with this species before they started to migrate from their homeland in the Cameroonian-Nigerian borderland, but that it disappeared from the habitat of a subset of them to be re-introduced only later. This is of high relevance for the {\textquoteleft}savannah corridor{\textquoteright} hypothesis. References: Bostoen, K. 2007. Bantu Plant Names as Indicators of Linguistic Stratigraphy in the Western Province of Zambia. In D. Payne (ed.), Selected Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference on African Linguistics, 16-29. Somerville: Cascadilla Press. Koni Muluwa, J. 2010. Plantes, animaux et champignons en langues bantu. Etude compar{\'e}e de phytonymes, zoonymes et myconymes en nsong, ngong, mpiin, mbuun et hungan (Bandundu, RD Congo). th{\`e}se de doctorat dissertation, Universit{\'e} libre de Bruxelles. Maley, J. 2001. La destruction catastrophique des for{\^e}ts d'Afrique centrale survenue il y a environ 2500 ans exerce encore une influence majeure sur la r{\'e}partition actuelle des formations v{\'e}g{\'e}tales. Syst. \& Geogr. Plants 71, 777-96. Maley, J. 2004. Les variations de la v{\'e}g{\'e}tation et des pal{\'e}oenvironnements du domaine forestier africain au cours du Quaternaire r{\'e}cent. In A.-M. S{\'e}mah \& J. L. Renault-Miskovsky (eds.), {\'E}volution de la V{\'e}g{\'e}tation Depuis Deux Millions d'ann{\'e}es, 143-78. Paris: Artcom / Errance. Maley, J. \& P. Brenac. 1998. Vegetation dynamics, palaeoenvironments and climatic changes in the forests of West Cameroon during the last 28,000 years BP. Review of Palaeobotany \& Palynology 99, 157-87. Ngomanda, A., K. Neumann, A. Schweizer \& J. Maley. 2009. Seasonality change and the third millennium BP rainforest crisis in southern Cameroon (Central Africa). Quaternary Research 71, 307--18. Reynaud-Farrera, I., J. Maley \& D. Wirrmann. 1996. V{\'e}g{\'e}tation et climat dans les for{\^e}ts du Sud-Ouest Cameroun depuis 4770 ans B.P: analyse pollinique des s{\'e}diments du Lac Ossa. Comptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences, Series IIA, Earth and Planetary Science 322, 749-55. Schwartz, D. 1992. Ass{\`e}chement climatique vers 3000 B.P. et expansion Bantu en Afrique centrale atlantique: quelques r{\'e}flexion. Bulletin de la Societ{\'e} G{\'e}ologique de France 163, 353-61. Vincens, A., G. Buchet, H. Elenga, M. Fournier, L. Martin, C. De Namur, D. Schwartz, M. Servant \& D. Wirrmann. 1994. Changement majeur de la v{\'e}g{\'e}tation du lac Sinnda (vall{\'e}e du Niari, Sud Congo) cons{\'e}cutif {\`a} un l'ass{\`e}chement climatique holoc{\`e}ne sup{\'e}rieur: apport de la palynologie. Comptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences, Series IIA, Earth and Planetary Science 318, 1521-6. Vincens, A., D. Schwartz, J. Bertaux, H. Elenga \& C. De Namur. 1998. Late Holocene climatic changes in Western Equatorial Africa inferred from pollen from Lake Sinnda, Southern Congo. Quaternary Research 50, 34-45.},
  author       = {Bostoen, Koen},
  booktitle    = {Impact d'une crise environnementale majeure sur les esp{\`e}ces, les populations et les communaut{\'e}s : la fragmentation de la for{\^e}t africaine {\`a} la fin de l'Holoc{\`e}ne},
  keyword      = {Bantu Expansion,pioneer tree species,vegatation change,climate change},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Paris, France},
  title        = {How the 'savanna corridor' facilitated the Bantu expansion: a lexical approach to pioneer tree species},
  year         = {2012},
}

Chicago
Bostoen, Koen. 2012. “How the ‘Savanna Corridor’ Facilitated the Bantu Expansion: a Lexical Approach to Pioneer Tree Species.” In Impact D’une Crise Environnementale Majeure Sur Les Espèces, Les Populations Et Les Communautés : La Fragmentation De La Forêt Africaine à La Fin De l'Holocène.
APA
Bostoen, K. (2012). How the “savanna corridor” facilitated the Bantu expansion: a lexical approach to pioneer tree species. Impact d’une crise environnementale majeure sur les espèces, les populations et les communautés : la fragmentation de la forêt africaine à la fin de l'Holocène. Presented at the Colloque de l’Académie des Sciences : Impact d'une crise environnementale majeure sur les espèces, les populations et les communautés : la fragmentation de la forêt africaine à la fin de l'Holocène = The impact of a major environmental crisis on species, populations and communities : the fragmentation of African forests at the end of the Holocene.
Vancouver
1.
Bostoen K. How the “savanna corridor” facilitated the Bantu expansion: a lexical approach to pioneer tree species. Impact d’une crise environnementale majeure sur les espèces, les populations et les communautés : la fragmentation de la forêt africaine à la fin de l'Holocène. 2012.
MLA
Bostoen, Koen. “How the ‘Savanna Corridor’ Facilitated the Bantu Expansion: a Lexical Approach to Pioneer Tree Species.” Impact D’une Crise Environnementale Majeure Sur Les Espèces, Les Populations Et Les Communautés : La Fragmentation De La Forêt Africaine à La Fin De l'Holocène. 2012. Print.