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Ihanzu: an archive of language and cultural material from the Ihanzu people of Mkalama (Singida region, Tanzania)


Language Ihanzu
Depositor Andrew Harvey
Affiliation Leiden University
Location Tanzania
Collection ID 0596
Grant ID IPF0285
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This collection contains audiovisual material collected during Andrew Harvey’s work with the Ihanzu language. Beginning in 2012 and extending to present, this deposit will be regularly expanded with new recordings, transcriptions/translations, and other content.

The focus of research has been to help create a description of the Ihanzu language. Materials therefore include lexical and grammatical elicitation. A second priority has been the collection of historical and cultural material deemed important to the Ihanzu people. As such, traditional songs, stories, and common history also form a significant part of the collection.


Group represented

The people in these recordings typically identify as Ihanzu, a small ethnic group of the eastern branch of the Eastern Tanzanian Rift. At the time of recording, the Ihanzu were mainly farmers, with agriculture a central feature of their culture. Modern religions (forms of Christianity and Islam) have had less of an impact here than in other areas in the region, but communities of Christians and Muslims still exist, especially in towns and larger villages. These new faiths exist simultaneously with traditional faith. The Ihanzu are renowned throughout the Rift Valley area for their rainmaking abilities, an institutionalized practice that continues to present day.


Language information

Ihanzu (isn) (Bantu, Niger-Congo) is an undocumented language, spoken by approximately 26,000 individuals in Mkalama District, Singida Region, Tanzania. Virtually no documentation of the language has been carried out, with no dictionary, grammar, texts, or standardized writing system. Information about how robustly Ihanzu is being passed on to children is not readily available, but it is reasonable to assume that speaker numbers are decreasing due to pressure from neighbouring languages (especially Nyilamba (nim)). The political environment in Tanzania is also hostile to languages which are not Swahili or English. Ihanzu is afforded no formal status in Tanzania, and is banned from use in important public domains.

Genetically, Ihanzu is most closely related to the other F.30 Bantu languages, especially Nyilamba (nim) and Nyaturu (rim). The immediate area in which Ihanzu is spoken is highly linguistically diverse, and Ihanzu may have taken part in linguistic contact with other Bantu languages including Rangi (lag), Mbugwe (mgz), and (possibly) Kimbu (kiv), as well as languages from other families including (Southern Cushitic) Iraqw (irk), Gorwaa (gow), Alagwa (wbj), and Burunge (bds), (Southern Nilotic) Datooga (tcc), (Khoisan) Sandawe (sad), and (isolate) Hadza (hts).


Special characteristics

This collection also includes several recordings made by Dr. Stanislav Beletskiy in the Haydom area in 2018.


Collection contents

The majority of bundles in this collection are audio recordings, totalling approximately 30 hours. Currently, most of these audio recordings are of formal lexical and morphosyntactic elicitation, though there are also recordings of 19 traditional Ihanzu songs. The remainder include recordings of prompted speech, including picture-matching tasks describing cattle and birds, as well as descriptions of birds and mammals from images in field guides.


Acknowledgement and citation

Harvey, Andrew. 2019. Ihanzu: an archive of language and cultural material from the Ihanzu people of Mkalama (Singida Region, Tanzania). Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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