The Genetic Identity of the Bangande People: "The Secret Ones"
This project explores the genetic structure and evolutionary history of the Bangande people who speak the Bangime language. Bangime is a language isolate spoken in seven villages among the Dogon language cluster in the extreme Northwest of the Bandiagara Escarpment in Central Eastern Mali. Even though it is surrounded by Dogon speakers, there is (11%) of Bangime's vocabulary that shares roots with Dogon terms. This small percentage may simply be due to borrowing of words from the neighboring Dogon. Further evidence for Bangime distinctiveness stems from the finding that it's grammar is very different from the other languages spoken by Dogon groups. However, on other ways, Bangande people share cultural habits with Dogon including the clothing, accessories and the use of Tellem structures for the storage of grains and as burial space.
Bangime appears to be the only language isolate in Africa that is not spoken by a traditionally hunter-gatherer population (i.e., agriculturalists and pastoralists expanded their range and resulted in a family of related populations/languages today, but this population on the isolated Dogon plateau did not), making the study of Bangande people open to more complex and interesting questions. The outcomes of this project will be critical for reconstructing African demographic history and modern human origins. It will also have insights on the origin of language isolates and hence rethinking about the classification system and language diversity in Africa.