ORIGINS OF BANTU AND PROTO BANTU
Scholers and historians have relied on various types of evidence to unravel the possibile origin, nature, direction and the impact of Bantu expansion. Historical source like oral tradition, archeology and linguistic have been the major source of information. It is important to note that all these sources have their shortcomings or weaknesses. Among them all linguistic has proved by far the most useful form of evidence in solving the Bantu origin and migration.
However as a result of a study of the vocabulary of the Proto Bantu, linguists are generally agreed that the Bantu originated from the grassland area of Cameroon and the adjacent Benue region of southeastern Nigeria. This region still houses the closest relatives of the Proto Bantu language. Notable among this are the Tiv and Efik language of southeastern Nigeria and the Ekoi and Duala of the Southern Cameroon. Similarly, the greatest consideration of incidence of the compiled and validated Proto Bantu vocabularies is also found among some of the languages still spoken in the region. A linguist was able to identify two thousand common word roots, particularly as measured in twenty-eight test language, chosen for their wide geographical distribution, across the Bantu zone and also quality of information on them. It was discovered that of the two thousand common words, he was able to identify at least 455 general word root that can be said to have existed in Proto Bantu. The linguist directes his effort at identifying the area with the highest retention of the “general” roots as the likely historical point of origin at which the Proto language first took shape and began to diversify.
The result from the evidence overwhelmingly points to the northwest of the Bantu language zone, linking Bantu to the language of Sub-Sahara West Africa, and the wider grouping classified by Greenberg as Niger Congo and later the Niger – Kordofanian.
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