It may, however, be argued that such a thing is possible, that the introduction of the fowl south of the equator need not be in any way coincident with the Bantu invasion, as its name in North Central Africa may have followed it everywhere among the Bantu peoples. But all other cases of introduced plants or animals do not support this idea in the least. The Muscovy duck, for instance, is pretty well distributed throughout Bantu Africa, but it has no common widely-spread name. Even tobacco (though the root "taba" turns up unexpectedly in remote parts of Africa) assumes totally different designations in different Bantu tribes. The Bantu, moreover, remained faithful to a great number of roots like "fowl," which referred to animals, plants, implements and abstract concepts known to them in their original home. Thus there are the root-words for ox (-ñombe, -ombe, -nte), goat (-budi, -buzi, -buri), pig (-guluba), pigeon (-jiba), buffalo (nyati), dog (mbwa), hippopotamus (-bugu, gubu), elephant (-jobo, -joko), leopard (ngwi), house (-zo, -do, -yumba, -anda, -dago, -dabo), moon (-ezi), sun, sky, or God (-juba), water (-ndi, -ndiba, mandiba), lake or river (-anza), drum (ngoma), name (-ina or jina), wizard (nganga), belly, bowel (-vu, -vumo), buttocks (-tako); adjectives like -bi (bad), -eru (white); the numerals, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 and 100; verbs like fwa (to die), ta (to strike, kill), la (da) or lia (di, dia) (to eat). The root-words cited are not a hundredth part of the total number of root-words which are practically common to all the spoken dialects of Bantu Africa. Therefore the possession amongst its root-words of a common name for "fowl" seems to the present writer to show conclusively that (1) the original Bantu tribe must have possessed the domestic fowl before its dispersal through the southern half of Africa began, and that (2) as it is historically certain that the fowl as a domestic bird did not reach Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 B.C., and probably would not have been transmitted to the heart of Africa for another couple of hundred years, the Bantu exodus (at any rate to the south of the equatorial region) may safely be placed at a date not much anterior to 2100 years ago.
The creation of the Bantu type of language (pronominal-prefix) was certainly a much more ancient event than the exodus from the Bantu mother-land. Some form of speech like Fula, Kiama (Tern), or Kposo of northern Togoland, or one of the languages of the lower Niger or Benue, may have been taken up by ancient Libyan, Hamite or Nilotic conquerors and cast into the type which we now know as Bantu, - a division of sexless Negro speech, however, that shows no obvious traces of Hamitic (Caucasian) influence. We have no clue at present to the exact birth-place of the Bantu nor to the particular group of dialects or languages from which it sprang. Its origin and near relationships are as much a puzzle as is the case with the Aryan speech. Perhaps in grammatical construction (suffixes taking the place of prefixes) Fula shows some resemblance; and Fula possesses the concord in a form considerably like that of the Bantu, as well as offering affinities in the numerals 3 and 4, and in a few nominal, pronominal and verbal roots.
The Timne and cognate languages of Sierra Leone and the north Guinea coast use pronominal prefixes and a system of concord, the employment of the latter being precisely similar to the same practice in the Bantu languages; but in word-roots (substantives, numerals, pronouns, verbs) there is absolutely no resemblance with this north Guinea group of prefix-using languages. In the numerals 2, 3, 4, and sometimes 5, and in a few verbal roots, there is a distinct affinity between Bantu and the languages of N. Togoland, the Benue river, lower Niger, Calabar and Gold Coast. The same thing may be said with less emphasis about the Madi and possibly the Nyam-Nyam (Makarka) group of languages in Central Africa though in none of these forms of speech is there any trace of the concord. Prefixes of a simple kind are used in the tongues of Ashanti, N. Togoland, lower Niger and eastern Niger delta, Cross River and Benue, to express differences between singular and plural, and also the quality of the noun; but they do not correspond to those of the Bantu type, though they sometimes fall into "classes." In the north-west of the Bantu field, in the region between Cameroon and the north-western basin of the Congo, the Cross river and the Benue, there is an area of great extent occupied by languages of a "semi-Bantu" character, such as Nki, Mbudikum, Akpa, Mbe, Bayoñ, Manyañ, Bafut and Banshō, and the Munshi, Jaráwa, Kororofa, Kamuku and Gbari of the central and western Benue basin.
The resemblances to the Bantu in certain word-roots are of an obvious nature; and prefixes in a very simple form are generally used for singular and plural, but the rest of the concord is very doubtful. Here, however, we have the nearest relations of the Bantu, so far as etymology of word-roots is concerned. Further evidence of slight etymological and even grammatical relationships may be traced as far west as the lower Niger and northern and western Gold Coast languages (and, in some word-roots, the Mandingo group). The Fula language would offer some grammatical resemblance if its suffixes were turned into prefixes (a change which has actually taken place in the reverse direction in the English language between its former Teutonic and its modern Romanized conditions; cf. "offset" and "set-off," "upstanding" and "standing-up").
The legends and traditions of the Bantu peoples themselves invariably point to a northern origin, and a period, not wholly removed from their racial remembrance, when they were strangers in their present lands. Seemingly the Bantu, somewhat early in their migration down the east coast, took to the sea, and not merely occupied the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar, but travelled as far afield as the Comoro archipelago and even the west coast of Madagascar. Their invasion of Madagascar must have been fairly considerable in numbers, and they doubtless gave rise to the race of black people known traditionally to the Hovas as the Va-zimba.
The accompanying map will show pretty accurately the distribution of the Bantu-speaking Negroes at the present day.
It will be seen by a glance at this map that the areas in which are spoken Bantu languages of typical structure and archaic form are somewhat widely spread. Perhaps on the whole the most archaic dialects at the present day are those of Mount Elgon, Ruwenzori, Unyoro, Uganda, the north coast of Tanganyika and of the Bemba country to the south-west of Tanganyika; also those in the vicinity of Lake Bangweulu, and the Nkonde and Kese dialects of the north and north-east coasts of Lake Nyasa; also (markedly) the Subiya speech of the western Zambezi. Another language containing a good many original Bantu roots and typical features is the well-known Oci-herero of Damaraland (though this S.W. African group also presents marked peculiarities and some strange divergencies). Kimakonde, on the east coast of Africa, is a primitive Bantu tongue; so in its roots, but not in its prefixes, is the celebrated Ki-swahili of Zanzibar. Ci-bodzo of the Zambezi delta is also an archaic type of great interest. The Zulu-Kaffir language, though it exhibits marked changes and deviations in vocabulary and phonetics (both probably of recent date), preserves a few characteristics of the hypothetical mother-tongue: so much so that, until the languages of the Great Lakes came to be known, Zulu-Kaffir was regarded as the most archaic type of Bantu speech, a position from which it is now completely deposed.
It is in some features unusually divergent from the typical Bantu.