OK, another question for you Africanists. I have a book Munyakare: African Civilization Before the Batuuree, by Richard W. Hull. I long ago figured out that batúuree is Hausa for ‘white man’ (the plural is tuuraawáa), but I have never been able to decipher “munyakare” (which is not in either the index or glossary, nor is it mentioned in the introduction or any other obvious spot). I thought Google would help, but it seems every hit for the word is a reference to this book. Assuming mu- to be a prefix, I googled “nyakare” and got a few hits, but the only one that looked promising was this page, which says “Nyakare: A chiefdom created for a daughter of Ruganzu II Ndoli” (who apparently ruled the baNyarwanda in the early 16th century). I guess a muNyakare would be a person from that chiefdom, but what that has to do with anything is beyond me. Again, I welcome assistance from those who know more than I.


  1. Nyakare is Shona means a long time ago. As you know Shona is a Bantu language. The same word could exist in Kinyarwanda or some east african language.

  2. Thank you very much! So would munyakare mean ‘a person of long ago’?

  3. After all these years, I can still find nothing on this mysterious name/word. Alexandre Kimenyi’s Kinyarwanda and Kirundi Names: A Semiolinguistic Analysis of Bantu Onomastics (p. 58) has “Nyakare, r/nya-kare/ [nyakare] ‘of early,’ which would seem to confirm what Moyo said above. This page contains the sentence “Then Thérèse was betrothed by a man of Nyakare,” which isn’t much help. Can any 2024 readers provide additional information?

  4. David Eddyshaw says

    If Google Translate is to be believed, munyakare itself means “in the past” in Shona.
    The mu- is not Bleek-Meinhof Class 1, “human singular”, but Class 18, which is one of the several Bantu locative noun classes.

    Here’s a paper by the excellent Dennis Creissels on the class in Tswana:

    What’s the deal with Hull’s book lumping together Southern and West Africa in his title? Is he one of those who thinks “Africa” is basically all the same culture? Or is he just adopting a very wide-ranging approach in his survey?

  5. Thanks for the Bantu analysis!

    What’s the deal with Hull’s book lumping together Southern and West Africa in his title? Is he one of those who thinks “Africa” is basically all the same culture? Or is he just adopting a very wide-ranging approach in his survey?

    I think the latter, but I can’t really say — it’s been over two decades since I read the book.

  6. Various sources online give Shona munyakare as meaning ‘traditional way of living’, ‘traditional way of life’.

    In this regard, we can note that M. Hannan (1984) Standard Shona Dictionary has the following entries ([L] means low tone; KKoMZ are the Karanga, Korekore, Manyika, and Zezuru dialects, respectively):

    nya- [L]KKoMZ prefix to nouns to express ideas of Owner, guardian, user; of Identification with object or state specified by noun or infinitive to which prefixed. Nyadenga: Supreme Being. Nyakutuma: sender; nyanzara: antbear; nyamunzwi: one who hears; nyamuzivi: one who knows.

    (nzara is ‘hunger’! very cute)

    kare [LL]KKoMZ n 1a Past time. Kare: some time ago. Kare kare: long ago. Kava kare kare: a good time ago. Nakare nakare: ever, always. Nakare kose: ever, always. Abva muno wakare uno: he left here just now. lye wakare: the very same fellow. Kare haagari ari kare: the old order changeth yielding place to new (prov). Chiro chakarecho: the very same identical thing. Kwakareko: at the identical place. Pakarepo: at the identical spot ; suddenly. Wakareyo: the very same person, etc.

    Bastin offers a protoform for Shona kare here. Guthrie, in the entry referenced there, suggests the possibility of a further etymology: *ka- class 12 prefix + *-dà ‘long’ + a suffix -í̧ (meaning?).

    In light of this, I am wondering about the function of mu-. G. Fortune (1955) An Analytical Grammar of Shona doesn’t have anything helpful on this. However, he does say that Shona class 3 mu- is used to make:

    (7) deverbative nouns derived from the applied stem, and indicating the manner of action. In the case of transitive verbs, such nouns may be formed from the applied passive species, and indicate manner of being acted upon. The process of forming these nouns is a living one.

    muridziro (way of playing an instrument) cp. -ridzira (play for)
    muridzirwo (way of being played) cp. -ridzirwa (be played for)
    muʋakiro (way of building) cp. -ʋakira (build for)
    muʋakirwo (way of being built) cp. -ʋakirwa (be built for)

    However, munyakare can hardly be deverbative, of course. (Fortune does offer some examples of denominal nouns of class 3, denoting ‘monstrosities of size’ built from class 21 nouns in zi-, but nothing else along these lines.)

  7. Thanks very much for that! You’ve certainly explained the morphology and semantics, but as you say, the function of mu- isn’t entirely clear. But that doesn’t bother me — I consider my curiosity satisfied.

  8. David Eddyshaw says

    The mu- is no mystery: it’s the class 18 prefix. Bantu languages typically have three “locative” noun classes: 18 is the one that expresses “inside, within”, the others being essentially “towards” and “at.”

    One of the oddities (from a SAE point of view) of Bantu syntax is that the locative classes often appear as verb subjects, with the “logical” subject demoted to a sort of postverbal adjunct. This happens even in Swahili, where the actual locative noun classes as such no longer have any members apart from the loanword mahali “place”; thus

    Kisimani m-na maji. M-exist MA-water
    “There is water in the well”

    where the m- is the class 18 subject prefix on the verb, agreeing with kisimani “in the well.”
    The Creissels paper I linked to has a more transparent example from Chichewa:

    M-mi-têngo mw-a-khal-a a-nyǎni.
    CL18- CL4-tree CL18- prf-sit-fin CL2-baboon
    “In the trees are sitting baboons.”

    where the verb “sit”* has the class 18 subject prefix: the subject is “in the trees”, not “baboons.”
    The subject here has two class prefixes, but there are also nouns which simply belong to class 18 intrinsically.

    Some Oti-Volta languages have a locative noun class, but it tends to be vestigial and often has the same class suffix as one of the bigger classes. In Western Oti-Volta it has fallen together with the “leaf” gender singular suffix *-gʊ; but that’s why (for example) the king of the Mossi is the Moog Naaba, “King of Moogo“, and why the Mampruli kingdom is called “Mampurugu.”

    * Cognate with proto-Oti-Volta *kàr-, hurrah!

  9. Aha, now all is clear!

  10. David Eddyshaw says

    The proposed proto-Bantu root *dà “long ago” is interesting: one of the few preverbal tense markers reconstructable to proto-Oti-Volta is the remote-past *da. Such markers as have traceable origins in individual Oti-Volta languages derive from time adverbs, like Kusaal daa “two days ago”, which must surely be connected with the stem of daar “two days ago/hence”, so an origin from a noun-used-adverbially would make sense.

    Dapa atan’ n da “Once upon a time there were three men …”, begins a Kusaal story.
    It’s a bit too easy to play this game with such short morphemes, though it is the best attested Oti-Volta tense marker. So maybe.

  11. John Cowan says

    Instrument-subject sentences are similarly weird by SAE standards, even though they occur in SAE languages like English and Italian. “Bob demolished the doghouse with a hammer” alternates with “The hammer demolished the doghouse”, but the hammer is not an agent. Sometimes, such non-personal subjects are not instruments either: “The clock’s ticking kept me awake” treats the clock’s ticking as an impersonal cause as in “The thunder kept me awake”, even though someone had to make the clock tick (by winding it, or putting a battery in it, or whatever).

  12. David Eddyshaw says

    A lot of Australian languages conflate the ergative and instrumental cases morphologically, though they can be distinct syntactically even so.

    Bantu languages tend to be pernickety about verb arity, which is partly what makes these locative constructions so odd (the actual verbs don’t show any special morphology in these cases.). It’s presumably all tied up with having locative noun classes: locative as a gender rather than a case, effectively. They don’t usually do anything similar with other kinds of “adverb”, and Northwestern Bantu languages which lack the locative classes don’t do the locative-subject thing.

    Even so, it’s very characteristic of Bantu languages that the “gender” system plays a big role in what from a SAE standpoint would count as derivation. Not just Bantu, either: Kusaal “adverbs” are basically a subgroup of nouns/pronouns with appropriate class suffixes; even the glottonym “Kusaal” is really “in the manner of a Kusaasi person.”

  13. David Marjanović says

    In the Caucasus it’s apparently common for the ergative of one language to be cognate with the instrumental of another.

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