In this article I am illustrating the linguistic diversity of African Pygmy populations in order to better address their anthropological diversity and history. I am also introducing a new method, based on the analysis of specialized vocabulary, to reconstruct the substratum of some languages they speak. I show that Pygmy identity is not based on their languages, which have often been borrowed from neighboring non-Pygmy farmer communities with whom each Pygmy group is linked. Understanding the nature of this partnership, quite variable in history, is essential to addressing Pygmy languages, identity, and history. Finally, I show that only a multidisciplinary approach is likely to push forward the understanding of African Pygmy societies as genetic, archeological, anthropological, and ethnological evidence suggest.
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Vol. 84 • No. 1