I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship

Today’s Bangime discovery may be a bit of a stretch, but that’s why blogs (versus peer-reviewed publications) are a great place for sharing ideas.

Many West African languages don’t have a word that exactly corresponds to the Western concept of ‘beautiful’. This makes sense as what constitutes ‘beauty’ is different culturally. Thus, the ‘native’ word for ‘beautiful’ in Bangime also means ‘good’, and a word which appears to be a borrowing means ‘beautiful’.

báákò: beautiful

I say this word appears to be a borrowing because its phonetic makeup does not align with the phonology of the language, but I never knew from whence the borrowing came. Today, while adding words from Songhai from Jeff’s numerous dictionaries and word-lists, I came across the following:

à: friend

The justification for the borrowing of the word ‘beautiful’ from an external source notwithstanding, if Songhai is the source, why would Bangime speakers re-lexify the word for ‘friend’? Maybe it was a case of lost in translation? As we saw in the previous post, Songhai borrowings in Bangime seem to come through Dogon and Dogon does not employ this word for neither ‘friend’ nor ‘beautiful’ nor any other meaning in the languages. Thus, if the source of beauty in Bangime originated among the Songhai, this supposed friendship must have occurred independent of the Dogon. Again, this is all speculative, but fun nevertheless. The mystery continues!


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