Guthrie classification of Bantu languages

The 250 or so "Narrow Bantu languages" are conventionally divided up into geographic zones first proposed by Malcolm Guthrie (1967–1971).[1] These were assigned letters A–S and divided into decades (groups A10, A20, etc.); individual languages were assigned unit numbers (A11, A12, etc.), and dialects further subdivided (A11a, A11b, etc.). This coding system has become the standard for identifying Bantu languages; it was the only practical way to distinguish many ambiguously named languages before the introduction of ISO 639-3 coding, and it continues to be widely used. Only Guthrie's Zone S is (sometimes) considered to be a genealogical group. Since Guthrie's time a Zone J (made of languages formerly classified in groups D and E) has been set up as another possible genealogical group bordering the Great Lakes.

Narrow Bantu
Africa, from approximately the equator south
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo?
  • Zones A–S (geographic)
The approximate locations of the sixteen Guthrie Bantu zones, including the addition of a zone J

The list is first summarized, with links to articles on accepted groups of Bantu languages (bold decade headings). Following that is the complete 1948[2] list, as updated by Guthrie in 1971 and by J. F. Maho in 2009.

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