In many cases, a language is a badge of identify for a specific ethnicity. Ethnic groups that are genetically related in the biological sense often speak language varieties that are "genetically related" in a linguistic sense. Nevertheless, we must scientifically distinguish ethnic group from language group or LANGUAGE FAMILY. To illustrate the difference, consider that there are ethnically-distinct Italians, Jews, Germans, Anglo-Saxons, South Africans, Hausas, and so on, who all claim the English language as their first and primary language. English belongs to the GERMANIC LANGUAGE FAMILY. Close "language relatives" of English include German, Dutch, Norwegian, Frisian and Afrikaans -- but not Hebrew or Hausa. Italian is a very distant language-relative to English, belonging to the ROMANCE LANGUAGE FAMILY. Germanic and Romance both belong to the INDO-EUROPEAN FAMILY. But Hebrew and Hausa ultimately belong to the Afro-Asiatic family, which has no established connection whatsoever to Indo-European.
The languge of the MAASAI, SAMBURU, and CAMUS peoples is often referred to as Maa. Together, these three political-tribal groups may be referred to as the Maa people, because for the most part they are ethnically related in the biological genetic sense. However, scholars working from oral histories and language data have argued that modern Maa is spoken as the first language not only by ethnic Maa peoples, but also by members of distinct ethnic groups (principally, some hunter-gatherer or dorobo, groups), which, over time, have assimilated to the Maa culture and language.
How would this situation come about? To understand this, click on the
thumbnail map and observe the colors which represent various indigenous
languages spoken in
For one example, during the 1800s the Aasáx were a CUSHITIC-speaking hunter-gatherer
For another example, there are
several different hunter-gathering groups in the Samburu region of
Conversely, there are ethnic Maa people who have either
been forced out, or emigrated culturally or geographically, from ancestral Maa
life. As a result, the first language of the modern generation is no
longer Maa. In particular, linguists Rainer Vossen (1988), Bernd Heine
and Gerrit Dimmendaal (1992) have studied the oral history and language of the
Kore people located on the Kenyan coast and Lamu island.
The Kore are ancestrally a Maa group, perhaps connected to the L-Aikipiak
Maasai northwest of