Genius of the Bassa Language


The genius of the Bassa language, the language spoken by the Bassa people of South Kamerun, who call themselves Mee (I Say), Bon ba Ngock (Children of the Rock), or Bon ba Mbog Liaa (Children of the Tradition of the Rock) is best evidenced in the word HILOLOMBI (The Supreme Being, The Most High). The word Hilolombi comprises three roots: 1) the article HI, 2) the verb ILOO (to surpass) and 3) the adjective NLOMBI (ancient), and means "The-Greatest-Because-The-Eldest".

The ability of the Bassa language to say so many things in one word tells of the main aspect of the genius of the Bassa language. Only those who master this ability are said to be Bankwel-Nkwel, wordsmiths, masters of HOP U BASSA, the language of the Bassa people.

Hilolombi is masculine because of the article HI; feminine, it becomes KILOLOMBI. Actually in certain circles, as in the initiatic circles of Koo women, the Most High is Kilolombi, for, as Koo women teach, "If you are a woman, the Supreme Being is a She, a Woman, Mother". Neutro-essential (neutral and essential), the Supreme Being is N'LOLOMBI. A state, we have LILOLOMBI, as in LIBAK.

As a matter of fact, and course, the Supreme Being is neither male or female. He is all that (male and female principles) and much more. He is L'ILOLOMBI, Divine Grandeur and Mercy.


The Judeo-Christian idea of God is of a revengeful Supreme Being quick to slaughter the enemies of Israel, the Jews, and also whoever does anything that displeases Him (like Onan dropping his seed on the ground); whereas the Islamic Allah is ar Rahman, ir Raheem, a Most Compassionate and Most Merciful God who always pardons those He favors. A Bassa person shall stick with the Bassa idea of the Creator: LILOLOMB (The-Greatest-Because-The-Eldest), for there is a reason why a people decides for one godly trait instead of another. Generally, this trait becomes a cultural characteristic, a feature to nurture in every member of that society. If the most important face in a village is the eldest Mbog-Mbog, it stems from the fact that the Creator is greatest because He is the eldest. To adopt someone else's idea of God is, for a MAN BUM, the greatest mistake.


[HI] HIYE IKETE NTET [(the thing) that which is inside a cage] becomes HIMUNTET; [NU] AYE IKETE NDAP [(the person) who is inside the house] becomes NUMUNDAP]. He who speaks this way is a true NKWEL_NKWEL (a wordsmith).

These specifics lead us to explore the nine parts of MPOT BASSA, the Bassa discourse.


BIPES BISAAMBOG BI MPOT BASSA, the nine parts of the Bassa discourse, are as follows:

1) BANGA (the verb) is the central element of MPAHLA (predicate, phrase, sentence), the Bassa enunciation. BANGA is a BUK (word) or NTON U BIBUK (class of words) expressing action, existence, occurence. They can be used as PAHLANA (copula or auxiliary). BANGA always begins with an i, as in ILOO (to surpass), IJE (to eat).

I Bibodol, Nkwaada. (In the beginning, Chaos.)
Yom i babe, (There was nothing)
Ndigi BANGA yole i ba. (Only the Verb was)
BANGA yole i ba, (The Verb was)
Mut-Binam a babe... (A human being was not)

2) Used to name a person, thing, place or action, JOL (name) and JOY (noun) are the second most important elements of MPAHLA. JOL and JOY always begin with a majuscule.
Example: Jol jem le Nuk (my name is Nuk); Joy li i Lon ini le Likoda li Minkok mi Amerika (This country's name is the United States of America).

Jol jem le Nuk (My name is Nuk)
I Hop u Kemhet, Nuk wee "Me ye" (In the Khemitic language, Nuk means "I am");
I Hop Bassa, "nuk" wee "hol!" (In the Bassa language, "nuk" means "prosper").

Another meaning for JOL is "nose". This explains that JOL (name) or JOY (noun) has the same centrality in a sentence as a nose on a face.

3) BABANGA (adverb) modifies BANGA (verb), or another BABANGA or a sentence. TO, TOHALA, TOMUT, TONJEEMUT are BIBABANGA. They begin with a lower case.
Example: TONJEEMUT A N'KOT HILUNG, A HONLAK UM NYOBE (Whoever plays the guitar must remember Um Nyobe).

4) It is LIKAS LI NKWEL (adjective, attribute) that qualifies or limits JOL or JOY. N'LAAM (beautiful, handsome), KILAMA (pretty, attractive) are MAKAS MA NKWEL.

5) SUBUK (article) specifies gender (HI, KI,), number [N' (N'KENI: big, grand), BA, BI, MA, MI are plurals (BATOLO: mice), BO [BOT (plural of MUT)]: people, MA (MALEP: water), MI (MINLEND: cries), and state [LI (LIBII: wedding, marriage), BI (BILOK: lineages)].

6) BIHENG BI BUK (pronoun) is a word assuming the quality of a name or noun. ME (I), MEMEDE, MEMEDE-MEDE (me, myself), WE (You), WEMEDE, WEMEDE-MEDE (you, yourself), A (he, she), I (it), NYE (he, she), BES (we), BESBOMEDE, BESBOMEDE-MEDE (ourselves), BO (they), BE (you), BEBOMEDE, BEBOMEDE-MEDE (yourselves), WEM (mine), WON (singular yours), WE (his, hers), IBES, BANAN (plural yours), BAP (theirs), are pronouns.
Example: BA BA BAA BA BA BO IBAA (They were wives of those two).

7) BUGA BUK (conjunction) is an uninflected word used to connect words and phrases. They may be IGWELGA (coordinating): NDI (but), NDILAA (but), HEE (where), NU (and), YAK (and, also) or BEMBEK (subordinating): IBALE (if), IBALEBO (if), INDEDA (when), INDEE (when), INYULE (because), NJOMLE (because).
Example: NDI KIBIXAT AYE HEE LEN? (But where is Kibixat?)

8) NJOKI BUK (Preposition) is a linguistic form that combines with a noun, or pronoun to form a phrase that typically has an adverbial, adjectival or substantial relation to some other word.
Example: The word LONNI (with) in the phrase MUT LONNI KOYOP SU "The man with a red face".

9) YAYI (Interjection) is every ejaculatory word of form of speech lacking grammatical connection with the word coming before or after it. EH, HOOKO, BAWELA, BAWEE are interjections.


The usefulness, use and users of this word, Mbog, and the activity it entails perhaps gives the best evidence of the genius of the Bassa language.

History, tradition, enunciation of history and tradition, are all the Mbog. The initiates of the Mbog are called Mbog-Mbog.

Mbog comes from the verb "ibog" (to gather, to put in an orderly manner). M'bog is the gatherer, the assembler, the one who puts things or a class of things in an orderly manner. The things we are talking about here can be anything from yams to books. The assembler does not need any training to perform this task. But the activity of the Mbog consists of putting the world in order, contening chaos, bringing people and multiple generations together under the protective wings of the Mbog. This requires a great deal of training, an initiation without which one wouldn't know how to perform this task, leading to the end of generations, and history.

If Nature is good to the people, if earth, woman, and grazing animals are fruitful, if no pregnancy ends without birth, if children are many, if illness does not arise, if food comes forth in abundance, if youth draws closer to the elders, if no misfortune stops the rain, it's because the Mbog is alive. It's also because effective, the Mbog-Mbog do their job well.

So how many words derive from the verb "ibog?" Many: 1) bog (assemble), 2) M'bog (assembler), 3) Nubog (the neutral one who assembles), 4) Kibog (the female who assembles), 5) M'bog-M'bog (he who knows how to assemble), 6) Mbog-Mbog (the initiate of the Mbog), 7) Hiboga (the assembling nest), 8) Hiboboga (a small way of assembling), 9) Libogok (one's way of assembling), 10) Libog (state of assembling).

As a result, in the Bassa language, every BUK (word) can turn into a BANGA (verb). It suffices to place an "i" in front of it, and you have a verb. And every verb can be turned into a derivative. Some words are known to have 12 15 derivatives. This exercise is called "INYO MALEP MA NKWEL" (literally, "to drink the water of good speech").


Like all warlike nations, Bassa people have developed a language overwhelmed with monosyllabic words: HYE (fire), GWET (war), NOL (kill), KUT (fist). There is one good reason for that: in a confrontation, warriors are best served if their commanders give orders in monosyllabic terms: LEN (fire), LEN NYE (shoot him), NOL NYE (kill him), TEE MAN NUGA (crush the little animal). Bassa people understand well that war is not a moment for speeches. One must understand that to understand the genius of the Bassa language.

Bassa verbs, most important words in Bassa sentences, will quite often be constituted with two syllables: I + the root word in question, as in IBOG (to assemble). But, in casual conversations, one is most likely to hear only the root of the word, "'BOG", not the preceding "I". This is another characteristic of a warrior's predisposition to swallow prefixes that are swallowable and reduce the word to its bare minimum. There is here a difference between the Bassa and say, the English languages. The Bassa "I" in "IBOG" corresponds to the English "TO". Both specifies that this is a verb, but while it's easy to swallow a "I" and end up with "bog", it is not easy to avoid using a "to" to specify verbs in the English language.

The Bassa language has ceased to be only a spoken language. More and more, it is written, studied, analyzed. It's time for Bassa people to really take upon themselves to codify it and create the rules and regulations that all users of the Bassa language will follow. This codification work is not going to be everyone's task. HIKOKOMA HI [HOP NI MBOG] BASSA, a Center for Bassa Studies, which will function like L'Academie Francaise, must be created. BAKWEKWEL, members of HIKOKOMA, shall codify the Bassa language for writing. Shall sit among the Bakwekwel only those who have demonstrated an unusual mastery of the Bassa language.

The word BASSA comes from the verb "ISAA" which means "to disperse, to disassemble." The verb "isaa" also has many derivatives: 1) saa(disperse), 2) N'saa (disperser), 2) Basaa (plural of N'saa), 3) Kinsaa (feminine of N'saa), 4) Lisaa (act of dispersing), Kisaaka (supreme dispersion), Kisaakaka (military order to bring chaos forth)...


What is known as the MBOG BASSA is the six-thousand-years-old wisdom tradition of the Bassa people. It is LIBOG (the art of assembling, putting back into order) what others SAA (disassemble or disperse). The Mbog-Mbog says: "I bog, u yi Libogok li Koba" (to put back into order what others disorganize, one must first know Koba's order or how things were before they were perturbed), and "Nkwaada: tonjee; Lisaa: tonjee, ibog: BaMbog-Mbog" (Everybody can bring chaos into the land but only the Mbog-Mbog can bring back the order."

MBOG BASSA, the putting together of IBOG and ISAA, two antinomies, is another example of 1) how the Bassa mind works, and 2) the genius of the language. Aided and carried by the language, Bassa people's mind is quick to find the contrary of things and quite often, the elements of their own contradictions. This has puzzled non-Bassa for centuries. What seems self-destructive to the stranger is the very thing that sustains the Bassa experience, individually and collectively. For example, when offered to rule the country in 1956, Um Nyobe, the man who led Kamerun to independence, the country's true founding father, declined and instead, start a bush guerilla. Two years later, he said goodbye to all with these words: "If I had wanted, I'd have ruled over you in a government of shame; but I have prefered to be called a rebel instead of minister in a rotten state." This sort of behavior is not simply the will of a man trying to die a martyr, or secure a place in history; it is embedded deeply in the psyche of the Bassa person.

Another example is that the Bassa person can spend his entire life without once uttering the greatest word of the Bassa language: HILOLOMBI. By respect for the name, for a human being is not qualify to say that name. Once qualified by virtue of initiation or other kind of transmission, s/he will stop at Hilolomb or Hilolombi if he is a man, Kilolomb or Kilolombi if she is a woman, referring to LILOLOMB only as LI-LINLOO-HILOLOO (That-Which-Is-Greater-Than-That-Which-Is-Greatest-Because-The-Eldest), for LI LINLOO LILOLOO LITABE (literally "That-Which-Is-Greater-Than-That-Which-Is-Greatest-Exists-Not", in other words, "there is no other greatness but LILOLOO."

The Bassa language counts more than 999 nicknames for The Most High, most of them the result of a play between the verb ILOO (to surpass) and the adjective NLOMBI, to stress that there is reality and there is non-reality, but above and beyond all contradictions, there LILOLOO, or LI-LILOO-LILOO, or LI-LILOO-LILOLOO (That-Which-Surpasses-Human-Perceptible-Greatness-Because-It-Has-One-Attribute-Than-Nobody-And-Nothing-Possesses:-ANCIENTY).


One would expect the noun HOP (parlance) to come from the verb IHOP but common knowledge has it that HOP comes from the verb IPOT which conjugates itself in the present tense as ME M'POT (I speak), or ME M'POT HOP BASSA (I speak the Bassa language) or ME M'POT HOP U BASSA (I speak the language of the Bassa people). To speak the Bassa language or the language of the Bassa people is no special thing. But when one says: "ME M'POT MPOT" (I speak the MPOT), he has switched to another sort of talk. The MPOT is another degree, a higher degree of HOP. It's no longer at the level of everyone. The average Bassa person can sit with two elders having a conversation and not understand what the elders are talking about. These elders will be speaking Bassa but it's simply that they have gone up a level or two in their parlance. For instance, the average Bassa person would say: "Mut a n'wo to imbe Ndeda" to say that "A man dies anytime". The elders would put the same as follows: "To imbe Ndeda, u nok le Mkom u m'paa Litin, Njok i nanle Oo i Hisi (literally "Any time, you may hear that a giant has raised a leg and an elephant has slept on his ear on the ground." The difference here is that the average person POT the HOP, while the elders POT the MPOT.

It is the MPOT the elders use to consult the oracle, to mediate with the ancestors, to invoke the spirits, and perform all other appropriate rituals.