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Teaching Mbendjee Yaka

I provide private classes of the Mbendjee Yaka language, spoken by the Mbendjele BaYaka Pygmy hunter-gatherers. If you are interested in getting to know the basics, click here to start learning. This link will lead you to my introductory Mbendjee Yaka course. If you are in need of private classes, feel free to contact me.

The following presents a short description of the Mbendjee Yaka, an excerpt from my PhD thesis:

  • "All “Pygmy” languages relate either to Niger-Kordofanian or Nilo-Saharan languages. According to Bahuchet (2006), Pygmy communities speak three languages that are not shared with their neighbours: the Bantu language Aka, the Ubangian language Baka, and the Central Sudanic language Asua.


  • According to Guthrie’s (1948) classification system of Bantu languages, Mbendjele speak “Aka” language, categorised as Bantu C10. Among linguists, there was a debate as to whether this language should be referred to as “Aka”, or “Yaka”, which arose from the fact that /y/ in “Yaka” is due a: “phonological rule which inserts a glide where is no consonant onset to a syllable.” (Duke 2001: 10), as well as it reflects: “regional accents and the popular tendency to drop consonants in normal speech.” (Köhler & Lewis 2002: 280).

  • I use “Mbendjee Yaka” [...]. The expressions of “Mbendjee” or “Yaka” were used interchangeably in reference to their language. By referring to this language as “Mbendjee Yaka”, I avoid confusion with a different Bantu language known as “Yaka” B31, while remaining faithful to Mbendjele emic terms and to scholarly traditions at the same time (“Mbendjee” in the work of Lewis 2002, 2009; and “Yaka” in the works of Kosseke & Kutsch Lojenga 1996)." (Bombjaková 2018:24; bullets added).


BAHUCHET, S. 2006. Languages of African rainforest «pygmy» hunter-gatherers: language shifts without cultural admixture. In Historical linguistics and hunter-gatherers populations in global perspective (Max-Planck Inst., Leipzig) (available on-line:, accessed 6 April 2015).

Bombjaková, D. (2018) The role of public speaking, ridicule, and play in cultural transmission among Mbendjele Bayaka forest hunter-gatherers, Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Doctoral. UCL (University College London). Available at: (Accessed: 13 November 2020).

DUKE, D. J. 2001. Aka as a Contact Language: Sociolinguistic and Grammatical Evidence. Master of Arts in Linguistics, The University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, Texas.

GUTHRIE, M. 1948. The classification of the Bantu languages. London: Oxford University Press for the International African Institute.

KÖHLER, A. & J. LEWIS 2002. Putting Hunter-Gatherer and Farmer Relations in Perspective. A Commentary from Central Africa. In Ethnicity, Hunter-gatherers, and the ‘Other’: Association or Assimilation in Southern Africa? (ed) S. Kent, 276–305. Washington: Smithsonian Institute.

KOSSEKE, D. & C. KUTSCH LOJENGA 1996. Le verbe en yaka. Unpublished manuscript.

LEWIS, J. 2002. Forest Hunter-Gatherers and Their World: A Study of the Mbendjele Yaka Pygmies of Congo-Brazzaville and Their Secular and Religious Activities and Representations. London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London.

LEWIS, J. 2009. As well as words: Congo Pygmy hunting, mimicry and play. In The Cradle of Language, 232–252. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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