Babungo language

Babungo language

Babungo is the language of the Babungo people originating from a village also called "Babungo" located in the Cameroonian Grassfields. It is a Grassfields Bantu language within the Benue-Congo language family. The spelling Bamungo is also often found.

In their own language, the Babungo people call their village vengo [vəŋóo] and their language ghang vengo [gháŋ vəŋóo], which means "language of the vengo"; this is why the Babungo language is officially also listed under the names "Vengo" or "Vengoo". Other terms for the Babungo language are: Vengi, Pengo, Ngo, Nguu, Ngwa, Nge.

Babungo is spoken by about 14,000 people. Because the Babungo people all live closely together and concentrate only in and around the Babungo village, there are only small dialectical variations in their speech, which are negligible.

As it is the case for all other Bantu languages (except Swahili), the Babungo language uses different tone pitches, which, similar to the Chinese language, form a distinctive feature for the meaning of the words. Babungo has even got a very complex tone system: So for the vowels there are eight distinctive pitch types or pitch sequences: high, mid, low, high-mid, high-low, low-falling, low-high, low-high-mid.

More and more people originally descending from the Babungo tribe are not able to speak the Babungo language any more. In most cases, those people acquire English as mother tongue, if they stay predominantly in the anglophone Northwest of Cameroon, otherwise French if they orient themselves towards the francophone parts of Cameroon. Most of the people in Western Cameroon speak Cameroonian Pidgin English anyway. Because more and more Babungo people distance themselves from the traditional Babungo way of life, and since there are not insignificant socio-culturally caused problems in that region, Babungo may belong to the languages threatened by extinction in the not too far future.


  • Willi Schaub: Babungo. Croom Helm Descriptive Grammars. Croom Helm Ltd., Beckenham, Kent, UK 1985, ISBN 0-7099-3352-5.

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