Samba-Duru Group

(Ulrich Kleinewillinghöfer, revised 2021)

 The bulk of the Samba-Duru languages, representing Greenberg's (1963) Adamawa groups 2 (Chamba or Samba Leko) and 4 (Duru, Vere), are spoken in a contiguous area extending from the Vere Hills south of the Benue in Nigeria to the Adamawa Plateau in Cameroon. The Samba and Duru groups were first combined into a (genetic) unit under the name "Chamba-Namshi" by Bennett in 1983, where  "Chamba" refers to the Samba language while "Namshi" is a now abandoned appellation of the Doowaayo (speaking Dooya̰a̰yo) and Paape peoples. A 'Chamba-Namshi unit'  was, however, not taken up by subsequent authors, who generally maintained a Samba or Leko Group and a Duru Group apart, as in Greenberg 1963.

The now available data show, however, that the Samba (or Leko) Group rather forms one of the branches of a Samba-Duru Group (or else Samba-Vere or Vere-Samba Group) which is principally defined by common phonological traits, a significant number of common retentions and a number of shared innovations in its basic lexicon. The other subgroups of this unit are the Duru Group, the Vere Group, the Gəmme Group and Dooya̰a̰yo. The Dooya̰a̰yo lects form their own unit. As regards the relation of the five subgroups within Samba-Duru, Vere and Gəmme are very closely related. They form a Vere-Gəmme or Gəmme-Vere unit which in turn seems to constitute together with Dooya̰a̰yo the northern branch of the entire unit, while the Duru and the Samba languages may combine to constitute its southern branch.

The area is dominated by steeply rising mountains, most prominent the Alantika Mountains and the Poli Massif, their highest peaks tower up to 1.500m above the sourrounding plains. The remote uplands and valleys of the Alantika Mountains straddling the border of Cameroon and Nigeria are the home of several hitherto largely undocumented varieties of the close-knit Gəmme and Vere languages, one of the branches of Samba-Duru. Together with the Lɔŋto language in the western foothills of the Poli Massif, a member of the Duru subgroup of Samba-Duru, they constitute a contiguous zone of noun class languages, outstanding among the so-called Adamawa languages in terms of the complexity and archaisms of their class systems. All of them have preserved presumably ancient features of the noun class system which appears to be characteristic for a still to be confined 'Benue-Volta' ("Adamawa-Gur"). The rich class morphologies of the languages in this zone contrasts significantly with the situation in most Adamawa language groups, where noun class morphologies are generally largely reduced or even completely absent. This is also the case in the other Samba-Duru languages outside that zone.


SAMBA-DURU Language Groups

Mubaako (aka Məbaako) is spoken around Balikumbat in the North West Region and, thus, outside the limits of the map. There are further Samba enclaves to the West in Nigeria. The areas of the Duru languages Pere (aka Pɛrɛ) und Dii extend as well considerably beyond the limits of the map.

VERE (Verre)

Jango (= Mom Jango)
Vere Cluster  (= Momi, Vere Kaadam)
Alantika Vere: Wɔmmu; Nissim-Eilim; Kobom, Karum (= Vere Kari), Danum; Sagdəm, Samləm Vɔmnəm  (Koma Vomni)
Gəunəm Cluster:  Yarəm, Lim, Gbaŋrɨm, Baidəm, Zanəm, Ləələm; ...
Damtəm (Koma Damti); ...


Gəmnəm (Gəmnime, Gimnime): Beiya, Gindoo;Riitime
Gəmme (Kompana, Panme) : Yəgme, Dehnime; Baanime


Doyayo (Dooya̰a̰yɔ) : Markɛ; Tɛ̰ɛ̰rɛ (of Poli); Tɛ̰ɛ̰rɛ (of the mountains)


Dii Cluster
Dugun  (Paape, Sa)
Duupa  (Paape)
Pere (Pɛrɛ)
Lɔŋto  (Voko, Woko)


Samba Cluster
Mubaako (Məbaako, Mumbaako, Nyong)
Pɛrɛma (Wɔm)

Duli and Gewe (Gey) as reported by Strümpell 1922/23 and Baudelaire 1944 refer to the names of two settlements on either bank of the Benue near the confluence with the Mayo Keb(b)i. The people there apparently spoke varieties of only one language. The Ethnologue reports Duli as extinct. Boyd 1989 and the Ethnologue list Duli as as a member of the Duru Group. The lexical data published on Duli (Gewe) does not support this classification. The data rather indicate that Duli - Gewe form a group of their own, which appears, nevertheless, to be fairly close related to Samba-Duru.


Concerning the position of Samba-Duru within Adamawa, Bennett's (1983) assumption that "Chamba-Namshi" comprises also the languages of the Mumuye group (as well as Nimbari, cf. 1983:43) found wider acceptance. Boyd (1989), who keeps the 'Leko Group' (= Samba Group) and the 'Duru Group' apart, basically follows Bennett's grouping on a higher level when he suggests that the Leko, Duru, Mumuye/Yendang and Nimbari Groups "form a core of closely related languages within Adamawa" (1989:179). This stance essentially continues to be the view inherent in the classifications of "Adamawa" by Williamson & Blench 2000 (see also  Blench 2012) and in the Ethnologue (Lewis et al 2013). In the Ethnologue this Adamawa branch is named Leko–Nimbari, a term which should not be used as a classificatory term. (Kastenholz & Kleinewillinghöfer 2012.) We rather propose to name this still  hypothetical higher level grouping 'Central Adamawa', pending further insight.

While 'Central Adamawa' is primarily supported by lexical correspondences (and thus would include Duli - Gewe), Samba-Duru also shows strong links with Central Gur groups (cf. Miehe et al. 2012) most evidently supported  by the clear correspondences in the noun class systems. Since this relation is further backed by lexical and typological evidence (Kleinewillinghöfer forthcoming b), the classification of Samba-Duru still awaits further clarifications.


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