PhD research: Reconstructing the subsistence strategies of the first Bantu speakers south of the Central-African rainforest. A historical-linguistic approach to plant and animal names in West-Coastal Bantu

Date
October 2018 to September 2022
Category
Keywords
Bantu speakers
plant and animal names
Bantu Expansion
Research fields
Languages and Literatures

This PhD project is part of the ERC-CG funded project BantuFirst led by Prof. Koen Bostoen and dedicated to the reconstruction of vocabulary referring to plants and animals in Proto-West-Coastal Bantu, one of the major branches of the Bantu family, aka West-Western Bantu. While the archaeologists and archaeobotanists within the BantuFirst project team focus on the plants and animals which have left archaeologically retrievable remains in the Central African soils, this historical-linguistic PhD project will also result in the reconstruction of vocabulary for those means of subsistence which remain archaeologically invisible. Thanks to previous linguistic, ethnobotanical and ethnozoological research, specialized plant and animal vocabulary is available for several West-Coastal Bantu languages. This dataset will be extended through dedicated joint linguistic and ethnobotanical and ethnozoological fieldwork within this PhD project. Along with the new archaeobotanical and palaeoenvironmental data obtained as part of the BantuFirst project, the reconstruction of new subsistence-related vocabulary in Proto-West-Coastal Bantu will lead to a better understanding of the natural environment and subsistence economy of the first Bantu speakers south of the Central African rainforest around 2,500 years ago and make it possible to assess whether by that time food production had gained in importance with regard to the start of the Bantu Expansion (around 5,000 to 4,000 years ago).