The inter-relatedness of Sala and other Bantu Botatwe Languages ( Ila, Lenje, Soli and Tonga) in Zambia

Avinat Chitebeta


The inter-relatedness of Sala and other Bantu Botatwe languages in Zambia is a study which involved a lexicostatistical survey on the inter-relatedness of Sala, Lenje, Soli and Tonga. According to Doke (1954), Bantu Botatwe refers to the language group comprising the seven languages of the Tonga group, namely Ila, Lenje, Lundwe, Sala, Soli, Tonga and Twa. The affinity of these languages is generally accepted.  However, no systematic study of the lexicostatistical analysis has been made. The purpose of this study is to make a contribution to the existing knowledge in comparative Bantu linguistics by conducting a lexicostatistical survey on the degree of inter-relatedness of the languages investigated.

The study specifically focused on Sala, one of the least documented languages in the Bantu Botatwe Group, to establish its degree of inter-relatedness with Tonga, the language used for initial literacy and as a school subject in Sala-speaking areas. Further, the study included Lenje and Soli, making a total of four languages studied.

‘The Swadesh list’ of two hundred (200) vocabulary items, was the basis for comparison. Three informants (Translators) of above forty-five (45) years of age were carefully chosen from each language using purposive sampling.

The data collected were analyzed using the lexicostatistical method whose results were presented in tables and graphs.  Established cognates were coded: a plus (+) sign for cognates; a minus sign for non-cognates; a hash (#) sign for the second set of cognates; a caret (^) sign for the third set of cognates.

The study employed the tenets from historical and comparative linguistics and lexicostatistics theoretical framework.

The study established that Sala’s degree of inter-relatedness with other three languages studied, ranges from 67 percent to 81.5 percent. The highest percentage of inter-relatedness is between Sala and Lenje at 81.5 percent followed by Sala and Tonga at 80 percent, Sala and Ila at 70 percent while Sala and Soli is at 67 percent. The researcher concludes that the speech forms like Sala and Lenje, Sala and Tonga, are dialects of the same language due to a high degree of mutual intelligibility based on the vocabulary and lexicostatically. Sala and Ila, Sala and Soli are distinct languages though their inter-relatedness is 70 and 67 percent respectively.


Sala, Bantu Botatwe Languages, lexicostatistical survey and analysis.

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.