Fleming, Harold C.
Ongota: A Decisive Language in African Prehistory
|pages/dimensions: ||IX, 214 pages|
|binding: ||cloth bound|
|publishing date: ||August 2006|
|prices: ||78,00 Eur[D]|
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A international team re-discovered a tiny tribe of hunters, first discovered a century ago in extreme southern Ethiopia but never seen again. Now dying out, Ongotan culture and language are kept alive by 20 old men who resist the pressures of two outside societies. A short description of their language and ethnography (published elsewhere) are given more fully. The examination of Ongota reveals an Afrasian (Afro-Asiatic, Hamito-Semitic) language of marked dissimilarity to its sisters in grammar and a large lexicon with links to Afrasian languages spread over large sections of Africa. Ongota clearly is in a class by itself within Afrasian, even though loan words from nearby languages muddy up the analysis. Ongotan has serious implications for Afrasian prehistory as a whole and hence the prehistory of northern and eastern Africa. Traditionally, some scholars (especially geneticists) have assumed a constant flow of culture, language, and genes from the Near East to the west and south of Africa, especially the Sahara and the Horn. With the bulk. of its deepest or oldest branches located in the Horn Afrasian must surely have expanded into the Near East from the Horn. Recent archaeology confirms this conclusion, as do palaeobotanical studies.