A Brief History of Bangime

Based on conversations I have been having with Hiba, I had an epiphany today that I really want to share with you.  While I have known for some time that Bangi-me translates to the hidden, or secret language, I had been quite stumped by what Roger Blench once referred to as the “intrusive –ri-“ that is sometimes written with the name of the language in the old literature about the Dogon languages. No one among the Bangime speaking community ever knew either. It just hit me, looking at all these word correspondences, that in the Dogon languages in which bang- is the root for ‘hidden’, or ‘secret’, not only is there bangi-ye, from which the name of the language originates, but also the form bang-er-i appearsthe former being the media-passive, ‘it is hidden/secret’, and the latter being a transitive such as ‘he hid it’. The suffix -ye is pronounced variably as -me in Bangime to refer to ethnicities and their languages so while I had long ago figured that Bangi-me ~ Bangi-ye (the two are interchangeable in the language) is re-lexified form of ‘hidden/secret’ to mean ‘hidden/secret language’, it had never occurred to me that the -ri suffix is also derived from Dogon! A similar suffix is pervasive throughout the language and is omitted seemingly at random and thus I never figured out its true meaning. Now I see why – it has no meaning in Bangime!  It is merely a Dogon relic.

Further, it occurred to me that if the name of the language and the people is actually from Dogon, then a) the people’s real name for themselves is unknown and b) the Dogon who named them thus must have done so at a distant point in the past. I wrote about this latter fact in the Diss, but I just wanted to re-iterate the point with this Hidden Map that clearly illustrates that the Dogon speakers who use the bang- root currently live a great distance (don’t forget the cliff range is not easy terrain!) from Bounou and those who surround Bounou use terms completely unrelated, as does Bounou itself, incidentally, the term for ‘hidden, secret’ in Bangime itself is daanda. The Bangande are largely unaware of what the term even means in these far-away Dogon languages, unlike the Dogon who are most certainly well aware that the ‘nickname’ for them in Fulfulde kaddo means, ‘bitter’. Further, Dogon do not call themselves kaddo, nor do they even use the term Dogon, which supposedly derives from the wide-spread Mande term, dogo, ‘little brother’. However, Bangime speakers do refer to themselves and their language, as noted above, variably as Bangime or Bangiye.

The question remains then, at what point in time and in space did the now-Easterly Dogon have contact with the speakers of Bangime? Did Bangime speakers migrate westwards across the arduous cliffs only to finally settle at the far western rim as they insist from oral histories? Or, the more likely scenario, did they originate in the area in which they currently inhabit, and then Dogon-speakers came upon them from the increasingly inhospitable and inhabitable Sahara desert, naming them ‘the secret ones’ before searching and finally safely settling along the Eastern ridges of the cliffs?

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