The Use of Kinyarwanda.

Beth Lewis Samuelson and Sarah Warshauer Freedman’s 2010 article “Language policy, multilingual education, and power in Rwanda” (Open Access) has a useful summary of the linguistic situation in Rwanda (as of a dozen years ago, anyway); the Abstract reads:

The evolution of Rwanda’s language policies since 1996 has played and continues to play a critical role in social reconstruction following war and genocide. Rwanda’s new English language policy aims to drop French and install English as the only language of instruction. The policy-makers frame the change as a major factor in the success of social and education reforms aimed at promoting reconciliation and peace and increasing Rwanda’s participation in global economic development. However, in Rwanda, the language one speaks is construed as an indicator of group affiliations and identity. Furthermore, Rwanda has the potential to develop a multilingual educational policy that employs its national language, Kinyarwanda (Ikinyarwanda, Rwanda), to promote mass literacy and a literate, multilingual populace. Rwanda’s situation can serve as a case study for the ongoing roles that language policy plays in the politics of power.

And here’s the initial discussion of the Kinyarwanda language:

In Rwanda today, Kinyarwanda is described as a critical element in the essence of “Rwandan-ness.” Rwandans believe that all Rwandans should speak Kinyarwanda. They will scold Rwandans who do not speak it well, most of whom were displaced by the wars and massacres prior to 1994 and who grew up outside Rwanda (often called the Diaspora). The fact that Rwanda has only one autochthonous language makes it a special case, as most African nations are multilingual. Thus, Kinyarwanda is viewed as a unifier. As high as 99.4% of the population can speak Kinyarwanda (Rosendal2009), and approximately 90% of Rwandans speak only Kinyarwanda (LeClerc2008; Munyankesha2004).

Kinyarwanda is the language of instruction in primary schools and is frequently spoken in daily life and at official public functions (The New Times2007b). Despite the widespread use of Kinyarwanda, mass literacy in Kinyarwanda remains weak: relatively few high-quality textbooks and books with popular appeal are available in Kinyarwanda. While some periodicals and newspapers in Kinyarwanda are in circulation, the main vehicle for communication with the masses who speak only the vernacular is through radio and television. An indication of this disparity with English and French comes from a recent study of billboards and signs in which Kinyarwanda ranked below both Western languages in the frequency of use (Rosendal2009).

In respect to mass literacy, Kinyarwanda has received some of the benign neglect that has been the fate of many other African languages, as French was retained as the language of prestige and political power immediately after independence. Kinyarwanda has remained less developed because it is not the language of instruction beyond primary school (Rassool2007). Primary school graduates who are able to move on to secondary school go through a form of transitional bilingualism as they shift from learning in their mother tongue to learning in an ex-colonial language. So while Kinyarwanda does enjoy the unique advantage of being the only non-colonial language widely spoken in Rwanda, it is not the primary language of cultural, social and economic capital.

Varieties of Kinyarwanda are also spoken beyond Rwanda’s borders. Speakers of Kinyarwanda or languages similar to Kinyarwanda live in southern Uganda, eastern Congo, and western Tanzania (Munyankesha2004). Kirundi, the language of Burundi, Rwanda’s neighbor to the south, is mutually intelligible with Kinyarwanda (Masagara2001). The name “Ururimi,” which simply means ‘language’ or ‘tongue’ (Niyomugabo2009), has been used to describe the language features shared by this community of speakers both inside and outside of Rwanda (e.g., The New Times 2008). The Kinyarwanda Computing Project to adapt Kinyarwanda for software applications has been renamed the Ururimi Computing Project and includes vocabulary from both Kinyarwanda and Kirundi. The BBC Radio, Rwanda Radio and Burundi Radio are broadcasting call-in programs that allow people to voice their opinions in ‘Kinyarwanda/Kirundi.’

We discussed Kinyarwanda in 2012 (I never got an answer to my question about whether speakers of other Bantu languages, like Swahili, say kiRwanda rather than kinyaRwanda). Thanks, Bathrobe!


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    That is a fascinating paper, in a somewhat horrifying way.

    It’s actually more about the use of French in Rwanda. I had no idea that it had turned into a proxy ethnic marker in the way the paper describes.

    The background of pervasive fear evident in the paper reminds me of one of my contemporaries in the cohort recruited by Christoffelblindenmission, a very young Austrian woman of admirable psychological toughness, whom I caught up with many years later after she had been working for years in the refugee camp in Goma. She was reticent and brave, and had suffered no immediate threats to her own person, but had very clearly had much the most traumatic time of any of us.

  2. “one autochthonous language”

  3. J.W. Brewer says

    Perhaps due to inequities in Belgium’s domestic language policy at the time, I take it its imperialism was largely conducted monolingually, with the result that there were no Dutch-speaking genocidaires in later Rwandan history. (That said, wikipedia claims that in the last decade or so of the colonial era the ethnic-Fleming Belgian Catholic clergy in Rwanda were likely to be more sympathetic than the ethnic-Walloon clergy to the Hutu seeking an improvement in their social/political position vis-a-vis the Tutsi, but they presumably still used French to encourage their Hutu proteges political ambitions.)

  4. David Eddyshaw says


    Pretty much yes, apparently. According to the paper, 99.94% of the population speak Kinyarwanda, and 90% speak only Kinyarwanda.

    Somalia is just about the only other “Subsaharan” African country I can think of with this kind of linguistic uniformity.*
    I suppose it just goes to show that linguistic homogeneity hardly guarantees harmony. But then we knew that.

    *Maybe not even that: some dialects of Somali (if you call them that) apparently are very divergent.

  5. J.W. Brewer says

    Just to the south, Burundi (with broadly similar circumstances and historical dynamics that have sometimes played out differently in terms of who gets killed by whom) English has been added as an additional official language but is not taken seriously enough, according to this recent piece written in English by someone professionally interested in more Burundians mastering English. I suspect that most Burundians who know English also know French, so there’s a lack of parallel to the Rwandan phenomenon of a returned-emigre elite who don’t know French and don’t want to learn.

  6. Somalia is just about the only other “Subsaharan” African country I can think of with this kind of linguistic uniformity.*

    Somalia is much larger of course (well: 1.5 more people, with 24 times less density) but it does have some langauges.

    A country with no single autochtonous minority langauge, that is remarkable, if true. It is Africa! Even in Europe apart of Sorbian, Fresian, Breton and Vojvodina there are Gypsies and Jews. And if Gypsies are not autochtonous, then German for Austria and Bantu for Eastern South Africa are not autochtonous either.

  7. J.W. Brewer says

    The linguistic homogeneity (as to non-European languages) of Rwanda is unusual in sub-Saharan Africa but I don’t think unique. Beyond Somalia,* the situation is reportedly similar in Madagascar, Lesotho and maybe (although maybe not quite to that 99% level) in The Kingdom Formerly Known As Swaziland and of course in the aforementioned Burundi, whose language Kirundi sounds to be about as distant from Kinyarwanda as .. Montenegrin is from Serbian? Macedonian is from Bulgarian? Galician is from Portuguese? NZEng is from AustEng? Something like that.

    *I’m not counting for this purpose various uninhabited-before-European-arrival island nations ranging from Cape Verde to Mauritius that tend to get grouped with Africa for other purposes, because they don’t really seem like fair counterexamples to the generalization.

  8. David Eddyshaw says

    Madagascar is certainly a valid example. Burundi too.
    I’d forgotten about Lesotho, as one does.

    There is a (true) anecdote about Moshoeshoe II and an ex-girlfriend of mine which is unfortunately too shocking to be reproduced in a family blog like this.

  9. There is a (true) anecdote about Moshoeshoe II and an ex-girlfriend of mine which is unfortunately too shocking to be reproduced in a family blog like this.

    Come on, now that you’ve mentioned it you’ve got to tell us!

  10. Yes, we insist. We won’t tell a soul!

  11. Totally off topic, but there is a short story in The Atlantic called “Person of Korea” which mentions the Nivkh people/language on Sakhalin Island. I thought people on this blog may have interesting things to say about them.

  12. Nivkh used to be known as Gilyak. There are Wikipedia articles about them and their language. When I was at Hokkaido University in 1975 there was a young Japanese woman in the linguistics department who was doing research on their language. (Sorry, I don’t have anything very interesting to say about the Nivkh….)

  13. It’s a good story, but a fantasy as far the use of the Nivkh language goes. In the story, which takes place in the 1990s, adult Nivkhs use the language for everyday communication. Per Wikipedia, “The official Russian census reported similar numbers of ethnic Nivkhs in 1897 (4,500) and in 2002 (5,200). However, the number of native speakers among the ethnic Nivkhs dropped from 100% to 23.3% in the same period. All recorded native Nivkh speakers were bilingual in Russian, most of them were born in 1920-1940s.” In other words, most speakers then were older than 50, and the age groups where the language was really prevalent were probably older.

  14. About Somalia, J. W. Brewer:

    In the pre-Internet years when I was at Indiana University, one of my fellow graduate students was a Somali who told me he had to write to his grandfather in Arabic, to his father in Italian, and to his brother in English. They all spoke the same indigenous language, of course. And Indiana University being in Indiana, the Bloomington police harassed him because he was married to a white woman.

  15. And if Gypsies are not autochtonous, then German for Austria and Bantu for Eastern South Africa are not autochtonous either.

    How is German not autochthonous for Austria? Not following you. Maybe it is not indigenous to parts of Carinthia and Styria where perhaps the Slovenes have a better claim but there is no “older” “more native” language spoken anywhere else on Austrian territory.

  16. Well, probably no language in Europe (and most other parts of the world) is autochthonous, if you go back far enough. It all depends on your cut-off point.

  17. Lars Mathiesen says

    If you believe that the modern humans out of Africa brought language with them, I guess only African languages could even be autochthonous. So whatever language* is spoken in the (unknown) spot where modern humans arose, is that autochthonous by definition? Even if it can be seen to have replaced another language due to migrations, because it just came back to its ancestral lands? (If not, at this time depth, it is very unlikely that an autochthonous language exists).

    (I have no political agenda in asking this, I’m just picking at the definitions).

    * KIKONGO, obviously.

  18. J.W. Brewer says

    Of course German is not autochthonous in (what is now) Austria, but Kinyarwanda is not autochthonous in (what is now) Rwanda either – in both cases the present status of the language reflects migrations/conquests (and language shift for the surviving descendants of whoever was living there earlier) within the last two millennia.

    Malagasy is probably autochthonous to Madagascar, but of course that simply underscores that conceptualizing Madagascar as part of “Africa” may, for at least some purposes, be an error. For an is-it-in-Europe-or-not parallel with an arguably autochthonous language, consider Iceland.

  19. English would be autochthonous to St Helena (and a few other places), if by that we mean that English speakers were the first permanent inhabitants.

    Napoleon was a foreigner there!

  20. Lars Mathiesen says

    Isn’t “αὐτόχθων” something like “from the land itself”? Just being the first settler doesn’t make you a native in that sense. (Look, ma! I can argue from etymology like a peever! Of course if you go by UN definitions it’s different, we sorted that out for indigenous in another thread).

  21. J.W. Brewer says

    If you believe buzzkill current mainstream evolutionary biologists, there are no autochthons in the Greek-mythopoetic sense at all, just as there are no actually-existing geese generated from barnacles. So “directly descended from the first historically-continuous human occupiers of the relevant territory” seems the least-bad meaning of “autochthonous” if you want it to have any non-fictional referent at all.

    Or you can go back to the alternative political meaning of something like “whichever people happened to live in the relevant territory at the time of first post-1400 European contact,” which I find unsatisfactory not least because it treats the pre-contact non-Western world as a frozen/static one with no history and conflict of its own.

  22. Vanya, I assume that Germanic speakers and Slavs and Avars moved massively in the western and eastern parts of the country around the Migration Period. For the beginning of germanization of the east (including “Ostarrichi”) I took 1000 years ago, after Magyars.
    So 1500, and 1000, and the point is: we should not dismiss Gypsies who are here (everywhere) for several centuries. Maybe in Africa there are some Gypsy-like communities too?

    I took Austria just as a random ‘younger than Romance’ speech community.

  23. Look, people, this is real autochthony. Grown out of the earth, not having walked in to a place from somewhere else.

  24. P.S. I know that this all is arbitrary. Variuos sorts of Germanic were spoken in Roman times, Romance and anything we don’t know about kept being spoken after.
    Germanic speakers came to the east before the creation of the Eastern March, and germanization of locals continued for a long time. And I have no idea what was spoken in the Middle Ages in Tyrol.

  25. J.W. Brewer says

    You don’t need to go quite as far as St. Helena to find a place where the Ursprache was English: Bermuda and the Caymans also probably work. (There may have been e.g. Hispanophones who passed through before Anglophones, but not that began an enduring settlement.)

  26. David Eddyshaw says

    In ethnographic accounts, Kusaal tendaan and its cognates in other Western Oti-Volta languages are usually either just transliterated (“tindana”) or rendered “earth-priest”, but the literal sense is “land-owner.” The tendaan is believed to be the descendant and heir of the original first settler, whose connection to the land is inviolable, regardless of any later political takeovers; the tendaan is the only possible officiant for rites like purification of the land following a murder and suchlike.

    The na’ab “chief” is a quite separate person, and the Mossi-Dagomba chiefs actually claim to have come from elsewhere originally. They cannot displace the tendaannam (though they do meddle with the succession sometimes.)

    The tendaannam in the Kusaasi areas are Kusaasi, and the Kusaasi conclude from this that they, and their language, are autochthonous.

  27. Interesting — this hadn’t occurred to me before, but Russian folk tradition has house-spirits, river-spirits, forest-spirits, but I don’t know of any land-spirits, attached to a piece of land in that way.

  28. David Eddyshaw says

    Austria was Celtic in Roman times. You’re all Welsh, basically.

    I don’t know of any land-spirits, attached to a piece of land in that way.

    Genii locorum …

    Kusaasi culture certainly has those; moreover the local place name “Bugri” actually means “abode of a spirit (win)”

  29. David Eddyshaw says

    The Dogon say that they are not themselves autochthonous: their tradition is that they dispossessed the “Tellem”, who are supposed to have subsequently left the region and become rainforest pygmies.

    (I got this from Jeffrey Heath’s grammar of Tondi Songway Kiini, spoken by a Songhay group who may themselves have displaced Dogon predecessors, judging by what seem to be Dogon substrate features.)

  30. J.W. Brewer says

    There’s a tendency to think of “indigenous” or “autochthonous” languages and peoples as unusually pure/pristine/essentialist, but it strikes me that rather ironically maybe the best way to find a genuinely autochthonous language is to look for a place where we know the historical circumstances were otherwise. So, e.g., Cape Verdean Creole really did arise “out of the earth” on the Cape Verde Islands and is distinct from any of the ancestral languages of any of the early settlers (including involuntary “settlers”) of those islands precisely because those early settlers did not all share a common ancestral language.

    Or, to use a completely non-Western example with more time-depth, consider Dhivehi, the language “indigenous” to the Maldives — it’s an Indic language showing evidence of substantial Dravidian influence, which would not have arisen absent ethnogenesis involving both some folks with an Indic ancestral language and others with a Dravidian ancestral language (the internet does not seem to have a particularly reliable-sounding opinion as to which got there first).

  31. The Dogon say that they are not themselves autochthonous: their tradition is that they dispossessed the “Tellem”, who are supposed to have subsequently left the region and become rainforest pygmies.

    Are there rainforest pygmies in the Dogon general area? I thought they are limited to Congo.

    (I tend to be cautious about Dogons, at least since the time when they culturally appropriated Sirius.)

  32. David Eddyshaw says

    According to Heath’s book, they actually claim that the Tellem became Central African rainforest pygmies, which looks even more suspicious.

    There is a tart note about the Dogon somewhere in Nigel Barley’s book about his time as an anthropologist in Cameroon, to the effect that they have shown great enterprise in making themselves interesting to the less-sceptical kind of anthropologist*. And who shall blame them?

    There does seem to be a genuine tradition that the Tellem were short. Presumably the assimilation to pygmies is a later embroidery/accretion. “Mais oui! Those pygmies of whom you speak, monsieur: we know them of old!”

    *”A most articulate and self-analytical tribe of Mali.” (Courtesy of Google Books. I don’t know where my copy of the actual book has got to.)

  33. David Eddyshaw says
  34. The Dogon say that they are not themselves autochthonous:

    Well, legends about being outsiders are the norm, I think.

    There is an identity “locals”, found around Belorussian borders, but likely more widespread before. It is, specifically, a refusal to assume any identity: unlike you, people with identities, we are just locals and could you f.. off with your arguments?

    Perhaps these do not claim to have come from far away and replaced anyone, but rather to have been living there since time immemorial. If so, then, if the Polesie theory of the origin of Slavs (rather popular here) is correct, they have a point. Just locals.

  35. Wlel, not “locals” literally. “Herelings”, somethign liek that. I think it qualifies for autochtones.

  36. David Eddyshaw says

    Progressing from musing on supposedly-autochthonous Kusaasi to idly wondering how long behaviorally-modern people have been in West Africa at all, I discover that the Middle Stone Age archaeology of West Africa is actually very little known, which I suppose is not too surprising, really. The answer seems to be “about as long as behaviorally-modern people have been living outside Africa”, which is what I’d have guessed if I’d actually previously thought about the matter; but it seems that it’s still all very uncertain:

  37. @Dravsi and others:

    On the subject of pre-Germanic Romance in Austria and neighboring areas: the Westernmost State (Land) in Austria, Vorarlberg, is part of the Alemannic rather than the Bavarian dialect continuum: in Austria there apparently is a sharp divide between Alemannic and Bavarian dialects, with no real dialect continuum within which Alemannic gradually shades into Bavarian. Apparently, the reason is that much of Eastern Vorarlberg remained Romance-speaking well into the Middle Ages, losing ground to Bavarian (spreading from the East) and Alemannic (spreading from the West): the present-day dialect border being where the two expanding forms of Germanic met, after having both spread at the expense of the local Romance variety. In fact, geographically, (Vallader) Romansh is spoken just next door, in the adjacent parts of the Swiss Canton of Graubünden/Grisons.

    In (Austrian and Italian) Tyrol I know that studies of local toponymy drove some scholars to postulate that several distinct Romance dialects were once spoken in the area, each with characteristic/defining sound changes. I also know that research on the pre-Alemannic Romance once spoken in German-speaking Switzerland revealed that it was distinct from the Franco-Provencal once dominant in present-day French-speaking Switzerland: in other words, the German/French language border found in Switzerland today was originally a dialect border between two distinct Romance varieties.

    None of the above should be surprising: the surviving Romance Alpine varieties known as “Rhaeto-Romance” (Romansh, Ladin, Friulian) each exhibits respectable dialect diversity, but more tellingly, the total number of innovations shared exclusively, within Romance, by all forms of “Rhaeto-Romance” amounts to approximately…(click, click, click, calculating…)…zero. Rhaeto-Romance is thus very much like “Dalmatian” or “Gallo-Romance” or “Italo-Romance”: a useful geographical label to refer to neighboring Romance varieties, but which does not refer to any kind of linguistic unity, past or present.

    @J.W. Brewer:

    Creoles are not always that clear-cut a case of “autochthonous” languages, because even when the island(s) where a given creole language is spoken today was uninhabited in pre-colonial times, there is strong evidence in many instances that either the creole itself or its pidgin ancestor was originally created elsewhere and was transplanted to the island where it is spoken today (and not created there). Cape Verdean creole is actually one of the few creole languages where all the comparative evidence points to its having been created locally (on the island of Santiago, sometime in the sixteenth century, apparently).

  38. J.W. Brewer says

    Etienne: yes, I chose the Cape Verde example with that in mind, although I expect there are others, maybe one per region (perhaps broadly defined — e.g. it’s at least possible that the West Indies and West Africa are the same “region” for this purpose) per Western lexifier language?

  39. January First-of-May says

    even when the island(s) where a given creole language is spoken today was uninhabited in pre-colonial times

    Pitcairn(ese) is an interesting case: the island had been inhabited in pre-colonial times, by people who probably spoke a language closely related to Mangarevan, but by the time the Bounty mutineers landed there in the 18th century, this population had probably already died out.

  40. Trond Engen says

    David E.: The tendaan is believed to be the descendant and heir of the original first settler, whose connection to the land is inviolable, regardless of any later political takeovers; the tendaan is the only possible officiant for rites like purification of the land following a murder and suchlike.

    This is such an obviously useful concept in an economy based on rights to land use that I almost feel embarassed not to have come up with it myself. I want to go looking for it elsewhere.

  41. ktschwarz says

    Bermudian English has just been added as a regional label in the OED. From the blog post this month:

    Since it had no indigenous population, Bermuda was not a site of significant language contact and never formed a creole. Instead, a range of English dialects came into contact with each other over the island’s 400-year history and formed a new one—what linguists call a koine. While geographically remote, Bermuda was anything but disconnected over the course of its long history and was exposed to diverse English input. Alongside British colonial influences, Bermuda had close links with the Caribbean and the southern American states from the 17th century onwards.

    These diverse influences and long history have resulted in an unusual English variety that is often said to sound American or West Indian to a British ear, and quaintly British to American listeners.

    It cites specific pronunciations that align with the American South, the Caribbean, RP, or 18th century London, or are unique to the island. As with the Caribbean, there are some words that survived here and not in England, such as “well” applied to food, meaning delicious.

  42. Very interesting, thanks for that! The whole post is worth reading, e.g.:

    One of the most commented-on features of Bermudian English is the so-called ‘v-w’ interchange, thought to originate from 18th century London (you can find this sound stereotyped in the speech of some of Charles Dickens’ characters). In reality, the sound in words like vex and when varies freely between [v], [w], and an intermediate sound: a bilabial fricative, represented with the symbol [β]. It may be that it is often interpreted as a ‘switch’ or ‘interchange’ because it isn’t possible to represent this subtler variant using the English alphabet.

  43. Funnily, in another thread I wrote [v~ʋ~w] for /v/.. a square:

    ⇅ ⇅

  44. J.W. Brewer says

    The only* time I’ve ever heard that Dickensian v-w interchange in person was in the Bahamas, from the mouth of an Anglican priest (preaching in a perfectly formal and non-colloquial register) whom I assumed was a local but I guess conceivably could have had Bermudan roots. Although I have a vague memory (this was over 20 years ago) that quite a lot of the locals had accents (even w/o that feature) that were definitely not American but not really prototypically West Indian either.

    *Although maybe something similar-yet-different happens in some South Asian versions of English?

  45. David Marjanović says

    what was spoken in the Middle Ages in Tyrol

    The Germanic/Romance border was practically as today – as soon as the Bavarians showed up in Innsbruck, they reached Salurn, it seems.

    All of East Tyrol, and further west to Toblach in South Tyrol, spoke Slavic at some point.

    in Austria there apparently is a sharp divide between Alemannic and Bavarian dialects, with no real dialect continuum within which Alemannic gradually shades into Bavarian.

    The Lechtal dialects (northwestern corner of Tyrol) are somewhat transitional, but apparently still classifiable as Alemannic without problems. South of that, the border is the Arlberg itself, which must have remained uninhabited for a long time.

  46. The Tondi Songway Kiini ethnonym glossed as “Tellem” is /kúrúm/, which I take to be originally a reference to the Kurumba/Koromfe who now live a little further south across the border. In the Songhay context, though, the notion of pygmy /kúrúm/ can hardly fail to evoke the Atakurmi, short leprechaun-like bush spirits who like to wrestle. In the only full-length Songhay film I’ve ever watched, they were played by dwarfs and portrayed as rather unsettling.

    In fairness to the Dogon, the anthropologist in question showed rather excessive “enterprise” in making them interesting to him; I remember reading in one of his students’ memoirs that Marcel Griaule had been known to get his informants sent to jail if they wouldn’t answer his questions to his satisfaction. Such circumstances surely encouraged the Dogon to exercise their creativity.

  47. David Eddyshaw says

    I’d read things suggesting that Griaule’s approach was – erm – suboptimal, but had no idea he was as bad as that. The Dogon should have set the cassowaries on him.

    Interesting thought about the Kurumba. Their language bulks large in the traditional Manessy-style classification of Voltaic/Gur, as a coordinate branch of “Central Gur” alongside Oti-Volta and Grunsi. John Rennison’s Koromfe grammar is interesting, though hobbled by the awful straitjacket of the Croom-Helm grammar series format.

  48. About Tyrol I mostly mean: people usually understimate how long a shift takes.

    When people speak about 9th century Maghreb, they do not think that Algeria could have Christian majority that time or that both the religion and Romance langauge would persist for a some more centuries. They simply impose modernity on the middle ages.
    No one would expect to find Gothic in 18th century Crimea, when looking at modern Crimea.

    In the context of “autochtonous” I would expect Tyrol to both preserve Romance for quite a while, and contain pockets of something funny.

  49. Etienne, thank you. I said “Tyrol” without anything specific in mind.

    But I did not know what you said, about Allemanic-Bavarian and about innovations in Alpine Romance (again, I see no reason to expect lingusitic unoformity in any period, “Celtic” or “Roman”. Mountains tend to be funny).

    For Alemannic-Bavarian and Germanic-Romance borders: there are “highways”, and Innsbruck-Bolzano-Salurn-Trento-Verona is the main one. If there are comfortable valleys connected by a pass, connecting Alemannic and Bavarian dialects, these could have met instantly. As long as movement is not hindered, I would expect people to spread quickly along them. But then one thing is a highway, and the other is an inhospitable cul-de-sac with impoverished locals.

    I am not sure then, that “borders” are good for modelling settlement patterns and langauge shift.

  50. It is what I also would love to have for modern dialects in any given region: a map demonstrating what is accessible from where. Socially and physically.

    as soon as the Bavarians showed up in Innsbruck, they reached Salurn, it seems.

    As soon as they showed up on a Roman bridge (at a place now called after that bridge), they followed a Roman road to Drusus Bridge and then down an older road to Salurn.

  51. David Marjanović says

    If there are comfortable valleys connected by a pass, connecting Alemannic and Bavarian dialects, these could have met instantly.

    South of the mentioned Lech valley there isn’t, so they didn’t and still haven’t.

  52. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    In the context of “autochtonous” I would expect Tyrol to both preserve Romance for quite a while, and contain pockets of something funny.

    As Etienne implied already, Tyrol does contain the Val Badia and Val Gardena, which remain predominantly Ladin-speaking. But I suppose they aren’t funny pockets because they’re too predictably sandwiched between German (or Bavarian) and Italian (or Venetian).

  53. John Cowan says

    Mountains tend to be funny.

    And montani semper barbari, as in the Caucasus.

  54. The West Virginia version is of course Montani semper liberi.

  55. It has no particular relevance to the article in the OP, but I found this BBC Travel article about Rwandan milk bars quite interesting. It does include a few Kinyarwanda words.

  56. In Rwanda, when you want to wish someone well, you say, “gira inka” (may you have a cow) or “amashyo” (have thousands of cows), and you’ll hear the response, “amashongore” (have thousands of female cows). When you want to express profound gratitude, you say, “nguhaye inka” (I give you a cow). […]

    In fact, cows are held in such high regard here that it’s common to incorporate the animal into your child’s name, with Munganyinka (valuable as a cow), Kanyana (female calf) and Giramata (have milk) – among many others – serving as popular first names in Rwanda today. And at milk bars, markets or elsewhere, if you want to make a woman blush, Rwandans might say, “ufite amaso nk’ay’inyana” (you have eyes like a calf’s).

    Now, that’s a cow-centric culture.

  57. Interesting use of gender-neutral English that passage too.

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