Swahili
Ajami: كِيْسَوَاحِيْلِيْ
Kiswahili
PronunciationSwahili: [kiswɑˈhili] (listen)
Native tomainly in Tanzania and Kenya, Comoros, Mayotte, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Bajuni Islands (part of Somalia), northern Mozambique (mostly Mwani),[1] Zambia, Malawi, and Madagascar.
EthnicityWaSwahili
Native speakers
Estimates range from 2 million (2003)[2] to 18 million (2012)[3]
L2 speakers: 90 million (1991–2015)[3]
Early form
Proto-Swahili[4]
Official status
Official language in
4 countries
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated by
Language codes
ISO 639-1sw
ISO 639-2swa
ISO 639-3swa – inclusive code
Individual codes:
swc – Congo Swahili
swh – Coastal Swahili
ymk – Makwe
wmw – Mwani
Glottologswah1254
  • G.42–43;
  • G.40.A–H (pidgins & creoles)
[6]
Linguasphere99-AUS-m
Maeneo penye wasemaji wa Kiswahili.png
Geographic extent of Swahili. Dark green: native range. Medium green: official use. Light green: bilingual use but not official.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
PersonMswahili
PeopleWaswahili
LanguageKiswahili

Swahili, also known by its native name Kiswahili, is a Bantu language and the native language of the Swahili people native primarily to the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa.[7] Due to concerted efforts by the government of Kenya and Tanzania, Swahili is one of three official languages (the others being English and French) of the East African Community (EAC) countries, namely Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. It is a lingua franca of other areas in the African Great Lakes region and East and Southern Africa, including some parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Malawi, Mozambique, the southern tip of Somalia, and Zambia.[8][9][10] Swahili is also one of the working languages of the African Union and of the Southern African Development Community. The number of Swahili speakers, be they native or second-language speakers, is estimated to be approximately 200 million.[11][12]

Swahili developed historically by borrowing a number of words from foreign languages, particularly administrative terms from Arabic, but also words from Portuguese, Hindi and German. In relatively more recent times, Swahili has borrowed the most from English. Yet sixteen to twenty percent of the Swahili vocabulary are Arabic loanwords, including the name of the language (سَوَاحِلي sawāḥilī, a plural adjectival form of an Arabic word meaning 'of the coast'). The loanwords date from the contacts of Arabian traders with the Bantu inhabitants of the east coast of Africa over the last couple of centuries, which was also when Swahili emerged as a lingua franca.[13] Unlike almost all Bantu languages, Swahili is not tonal, and this makes it more accessible as a second language.

In 2018, South Africa legalised the teaching of Swahili in schools as an optional subject to begin in 2020.[14] Botswana followed in 2020,[15] and Namibia plans to introduce the language as well.[16] Ethiopia and South Sudan have also begun the teaching of Swahili. [17][18] Shikomor (or Comorian), an official language in Comoros and also spoken in Mayotte (Shimaore), is closely related to Swahili and is sometimes considered a dialect of Swahili, although other authorities consider it a distinct language.[19][20]

Classification

Swahili is a Bantu language of the Sabaki branch.[21] In Guthrie's geographic classification, Swahili is in Bantu zone G, whereas the other Sabaki languages are in zone E70, commonly under the name Nyika. Historical linguists do not consider the Arabic influence on Swahili to be significant, since Arabic influence is limited to lexical items, most of which have been borrowed only since 1500, whereas the grammatical and syntactic structure of the language is typically Bantu.[22][23]

History

Swahili in Arabic script—memorial plate at the Askari Monument, Dar es Salaam (1927)
Swahili in Arabic script—memorial plate at the Askari Monument, Dar es Salaam (1927)

Etymology

The origin of the word Swahili is its phonetic equivalent in Arabic:

سَاحِل →   سَوَاحِل →   سَوَاحِلِىّ
sāħil sawāħil sawāħilï
"coast" "coasts", (broken plural) "of coasts"

Origin

The core of the Swahili language originates in Bantu languages of the coast of East Africa. Much of Swahili's Bantu vocabulary has cognates in the Pokomo, Taita, and Mijikenda languages[24] and, to a lesser extent, other East African Bantu languages. While opinions vary on the specifics, it has been historically purported that about 20% of the Swahili vocabulary is derived from loan words, the vast majority Arabic, but also other contributing languages, including Persian, Hindustani, Portuguese, and Malay.[25]

Source languages for loanwords in Swahili[26]
Source languages Percentage
Arabic (mainly Omani Arabic) 35%
English 4.6%
Portuguese 0.9–1.0%
Hindi 0.7–3.9%
Persian 0.4–3.4%
Malagasy 0.2–0.4%

Omani Arabic is the source of most Arabic loanwords in Swahili.[27][28] In the text "Early Swahili History Reconsidered", however, Thomas Spear noted that Swahili retains a large amount of grammar, vocabulary, and sounds inherited from the Sabaki language. In fact, while taking account of daily vocabulary, using lists of one hundred words, 72–91% were inherited from the Sabaki language (which is reported as a parent language) whereas 4–17% were loan words from other African languages. Only 2–8% were from non-African languages, and Arabic loan words constituted a fraction of that.[29] According to other sources, around 35% of the Swahili vocabulary comes from Arabic.[30] What also remained unconsidered was that a good number of the borrowed terms had native equivalents. The preferred use of Arabic loan words is prevalent along the coast, where natives, in a cultural show of proximity to, or descent from Arab culture, would rather use loan words, whereas the natives in the interior tend to use the native equivalents. It was originally written in Arabic script.[31]

The earliest known documents written in Swahili are letters written in Kilwa, Tanzania, in 1711 in the Arabic script that were sent to the Portuguese of Mozambique and their local allies. The original letters are preserved in the Historical Archives of Goa, India.[32][33]

Colonial period

Although originally written with the Arabic script, Swahili is now written in a Latin alphabet introduced by Christian missionaries and colonial administrators. The text shown here is the Catholic version of the Lord's Prayer.[34]
Although originally written with the Arabic script, Swahili is now written in a Latin alphabet introduced by Christian missionaries and colonial administrators. The text shown here is the Catholic version of the Lord's Prayer.[34]

Various colonial powers that ruled on the coast of East Africa played a role in the growth and spread of Swahili. With the arrival of the Arabs in East Africa, they used Swahili as a language of trade as well as for teaching Islam to the local Bantu peoples. This resulted in Swahili first being written in the Arabic alphabet. The later contact with the Portuguese resulted in the increase of vocabulary of the Swahili language. The language was formalised in an institutional level when the Germans took over after the Berlin conference. After seeing there was already a widespread language, the Germans formalised it as the official language to be used in schools. Thus schools in Swahili are called Shule (from German Schule) in government, trade and the court system. With the Germans controlling the major Swahili-speaking region in East Africa, they changed the alphabet system from Arabic to Latin. After the First World War, Britain took over German East Africa, where they found Swahili rooted in most areas, not just the coastal regions. The British decided to formalise it as the language to be used across the East African region (although in British East Africa [Kenya and Uganda] most areas used English and various Nilotic and other Bantu languages while Swahili was mostly restricted to the coast). In June 1928, an inter-territorial conference attended by representatives of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, and Zanzibar took place in Mombasa. The Zanzibar dialect was chosen as standard Swahili for those areas,[35] and the standard orthography for Swahili was adopted.[36]

Current status

Swahili has become a second language spoken by tens of millions in four African Great Lakes countries (Kenya, DRC, Uganda, and Tanzania), where it is an official or national language, while being the first language for many people in Tanzania especially in the coastal regions of Tanga, Pwani, Dar es Salaam, Mtwara and Lindi. In the inner regions of Tanzania, Swahili is spoken with an accent influenced by local languages and dialects, and as a first language for most people born in the cities, whilst being spoken as a second language in rural areas. Swahili and closely related languages are spoken by relatively small numbers of people in Burundi, Comoros, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Rwanda.[37] The language was still understood in the southern ports of the Red Sea in the 20th century.[38][39] Swahili speakers may number 150 to 200 million in total.[40]

Swahili is among the first languages in Africa for which language technology applications have been developed. Arvi Hurskainen is one of the early developers. The applications include a spelling checker,[41] part-of-speech tagging,[42] a language learning software,[42] an analysed Swahili text corpus of 25 million words,[43] an electronic dictionary,[42] and machine translation[42] between Swahili and English. The development of language technology also strengthens the position of Swahili as a modern medium of communication.[44]

Tanzania

The widespread use of Swahili as a national language in Tanzania came after Tanganyika gained independence in 1961 and the government decided that it would be used as a language to unify the new nation. This saw the use of Swahili in all levels of government, trade, art as well as schools in which primary school children are taught in Swahili, before switching to English (medium of instruction)[45] in Secondary schools (although Swahili is still taught as an independent subject). After Tanganyika and Zanzibar unification in 1964, Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili (TUKI, Institute of Swahili Research) was created from the Interterritorial Language Committee. In 1970 TUKI was merged with the University of Dar es salaam, while Baraza la Kiswahili la Taifa (BAKITA) was formed. BAKITA is an organisation dedicated to the development and advocacy of Swahili as a means of national integration in Tanzania. Key activities mandated for the organization include creating a healthy atmosphere for the development of Swahili, encouraging use of the language in government and business functions, coordinating activities of other organizations involved with Swahili, standardizing the language. BAKITA vision are: 1.To efficiently manage and coordinate the development and use of Kiswahili in Tanzania 2.To participate fully and effectively in promoting Swahili in East Africa, Africa and the entire world over.[46] Although other bodies and agencies can propose new vocabularies, BAKITA is the only organisation that can approve its usage in the Swahili language.

Kenya

In Kenya, Chama cha Kiswahili cha Taifa (CHAKITA) was established in 1998 to research and promote Kiswahili language in Kenya.[47]. Kiswahili is a compulsory subject in all Kenyan primary and secondary schools.[citation needed]

Somalia

The Swahili language is not widespread in Somalia and has no official status nationally or regionally.[48][49] It is rarely taught in the education system, the main foreign languages are Arabic and English.[49] Dialects of Swahili are spoken by some ethnic minorities on the Bajuni islands in the form of Kibajuni on the southern tip of the country and in the town of Brava in the form of Chimwiini, both contain a significant amount of Somali and Italian loanwords.[50][51] Standard Swahili is generally only spoken by Somali nationals who have resided in Kenya and subsequently returned to Somalia.[52][53] Lastly, a closely related language Mushunguli (also known as Zigula, Zigua, or Chizigua) is spoken by some of the Somali Bantu ethnic minority mostly living in the Jubba Valley.[49] It is classified as a Northeast Coast Bantu language as Swahili is and has some intelligibility with Swahili.[54]

Religious and political identity

Religion

Swahili played a major role in spreading both Christianity and Islam in East Africa. From their arrival in East Africa, Arabs brought Islam and set up madrasas, where they used Swahili to teach Islam to the natives. As the Arab presence grew, more and more natives were converted to Islam and were taught using the Swahili language.

From the arrival of Europeans in East Africa, Christianity was introduced in East Africa. While the Arabs were mostly based in the coastal areas, European missionaries went further inland spreading Christianity. But since the first missionary posts in East Africa were in the coastal areas, missionaries picked up Swahili and used it to spread Christianity since it had a lot of similarities with many of the other indigenous languages in the region.

Politics

During the struggle for Tanganyika independence, the Tanganyika African National Union used Swahili as language of mass organisation and political movement. This included publishing pamphlets and radio broadcasts to rally the people to fight for independence. After independence, Swahili was adopted as the national language of the nation. Till this day, Tanzanians carry a sense of pride when it comes to Swahili especially when it is used to unite over 120 tribes across Tanzania. Swahili was used to strengthen solidarity among the people and a sense of togetherness and for that Swahili remains a key identity of the Tanzanian people.

Phonology

Example of spoken Swahili

For assistance with IPA transcriptions of Swahili for Wikipedia articles, see Help:IPA/Swahili.

Vowels

Standard Swahili has five vowel phonemes: /ɑ/, /ɛ/, /i/, /ɔ/, and /u/. According to Ellen Contini-Morava, vowels are never reduced, regardless of stress.[55] However, according to Edgar Polomé, these five phonemes can vary in pronunciation. Polomé claims that /ɛ/, /i/, /ɔ/, and /u/ are pronounced as such only in stressed syllables. In unstressed syllables, as well as before a prenasalized consonant, they are pronounced as [e], [ɪ], [o], and [ʊ]. E is also commonly pronounced as mid-position after w. Polomé claims that /ɑ/ is pronounced as such only after w and is pronounced as [a] in other situations, especially after /j/ (y). A can be pronounced as [ə] in word-final position.[56] Swahili vowels can be long; these are written as two vowels (example: kondoo, meaning "sheep"). This is due to a historical process in which the L became deleted between the second last and last vowel of a word ( e.g.kondoo "sheep" was originally pronounced kondolo, which survives in certain dialects). However, these long vowels are not considered to be phonemic. A similar process exists in Zulu.

Consonants

Swahili consonant phonemes[55][57]
Labial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar
/ Palatal
Velar Glottal
Nasal m ⟨m⟩ n ⟨n⟩ ɲ ⟨ny⟩ ŋ ⟨ng'⟩
Stop prenasalized mb̥ ⟨mb⟩ nd̥ ⟨nd⟩ nd̥ʒ̊ ⟨nj⟩ ŋɡ̊ ⟨ng⟩
implosive
/ voiced
ɓ ~ b ⟨b⟩ ɗ ~ d ⟨d⟩ ʄ ~ ⟨j⟩ ɠ ~ ɡ ⟨g⟩
voiceless p ⟨p⟩ t ⟨t⟩ ⟨ch⟩ k ⟨k⟩
aspirated ( ⟨p⟩) ( ⟨t⟩) (tʃʰ ⟨ch⟩) ( ⟨k⟩)
Fricative prenasalized mv̥ ⟨mv⟩ nz̥ ⟨nz⟩
voiced v ⟨v⟩ (ð ⟨dh⟩) z ⟨z⟩ (ɣ ⟨gh⟩)
voiceless f ⟨f⟩ (θ ⟨th⟩) s ⟨s⟩ ʃ ⟨sh⟩ (x ⟨kh⟩) h ⟨h⟩
Approximant l ⟨l⟩ j ⟨y⟩ w ⟨w⟩
Rhotic r ⟨r⟩

Some dialects of Swahili may also have the aspirated phonemes /pʰ tʰ tʃʰ kʰ bʱ dʱ dʒʱ ɡʱ/ though they are unmarked in Swahili's orthography.[58] Multiple studies favour classifying prenasalization as consonant clusters, not as separate phonemes. Historically, nasalization has been lost before voiceless consonants, and subsequently the voiced consonants have devoiced[citation needed], though they are still written mb, nd etc. The /r/ phoneme is realised as either a short trill [r] or more commonly as a single tap [ɾ] by most speakers. [x] exists in free variation with h, and is only distinguished by some speakers.[56] In some Arabic loans (nouns, verbs, adjectives), emphasis or intensity is expressed by reproducing the original emphatic consonants /dˤ, sˤ, tˤ, zˤ/ and the uvular /q/, or lengthening a vowel, where aspiration would be used in inherited Bantu words.[58]

Orthography

Swahili in Arabic script on the clothes of a girl in German East Africa (ca. early 1900s)
Swahili in Arabic script on the clothes of a girl in German East Africa (ca. early 1900s)
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Swahili is now written in the Latin alphabet. There are a few digraphs for native sounds, ch, sh, ng and ny; q and x are not used,[59] c is not used apart from the digraph ch, unassimilated English loans and, occasionally, as a substitute for k in advertisements. There are also several digraphs for Arabic sounds, which many speakers outside of ethnic Swahili areas have trouble differentiating.

The language used to be written in the Ajami script, which is an Arabic script. Unlike other adaptations of the Arabic script for other languages, relatively little accommodation was made for Swahili. There were also differences in orthographic conventions between cities and authors and over the centuries, some quite precise but others different enough to cause difficulties with intelligibility.

/e/ and /i/, and /o/ and /u/ were often conflated, but in some spellings, /e/ was distinguished from /i/ by rotating the kasra 90° and /o/ was distinguished from /u/ by writing the damma backwards.

Several Swahili consonants do not have equivalents in Arabic, and for them, often no special letters were created unlike other languages. Instead, the closest Arabic sound is substituted. Not only did that mean that one letter often stands for more than one sound, but also writers made different choices of which consonant to substitute. Below are some of the equivalents between Arabic Swahili and Roman Swahili:

Swahili in Arabic Script Swahili in Latin Alphabet
Final Medial Initial Isolated
ـا ا aa
ـب ـبـ بـ ب b p mb mp bw pw mbw mpw
ـت ـتـ تـ ت t nt
ـث ـثـ ثـ ث th?
ـج ـجـ جـ ج j nj ng ng' ny
ـح ـحـ حـ ح h
ـخ ـخـ خـ خ kh h
ـد د d nd
ـذ ذ dh?
ـر ر r d nd
ـز ز z nz
ـس ـسـ سـ س s
ـش ـشـ شـ ش sh ch
ـص ـصـ صـ ص s, sw
ـض ـضـ ضـ ض dhw
ـط ـطـ طـ ط t tw chw
ـظ ـظـ ظـ ظ z th dh dhw
ـع ـعـ عـ ع ?
ـغ ـغـ غـ غ gh g ng ng'
ـف ـفـ فـ ف f fy v vy mv p
ـق ـقـ قـ ق k g ng ch sh ny
ـك ـكـ كـ ك
ـل ـلـ لـ ل l
ـم ـمـ مـ م m
ـن ـنـ نـ ن n
ـه ـهـ هـ ه h
ـو و w
ـي ـيـ يـ ي y ny

That was the general situation, but conventions from Urdu were adopted by some authors so as to distinguish aspiration and /p/ from /b/: پھا /pʰaa/ 'gazelle', پا /paa/ 'roof'. Although it is not found in Standard Swahili today, there is a distinction between dental and alveolar consonants in some dialects, which is reflected in some orthographies, for example in كُٹَ -kuta 'to meet' vs. كُتَ -kut̠a 'to be satisfied'. A k with the dots of y, ـػـػـػـػ, was used for ch in some conventions; ky being historically and even contemporaneously a more accurate transcription than Roman ch. In Mombasa, it was common to use the Arabic emphatics for Cw, for example in صِصِ swiswi (standard sisi) 'we' and كِطَ kit̠wa (standard kichwa) 'head'.

Particles such as ya, na, si, kwa, ni are joined to the following noun, and possessives such as yangu and yako are joined to the preceding noun, but verbs are written as two words, with the subject and tense–aspect–mood morphemes separated from the object and root, as in aliyeniambia "he who told me".[60]

Grammar

See also: Swahili grammar

Noun classes

Swahili nouns are separable into classes, which are roughly analogous to genders in other languages. In Swahili, prefixes mark groups of similar objects: ⟨m-⟩ marks single human beings (mtoto 'child'), ⟨wa-⟩ marks multiple humans (watoto 'children'), ⟨u-⟩ marks abstract nouns (utoto 'childhood'), and so on. And just as adjectives and pronouns must agree with the gender of nouns in some languages with grammatical gender, so in Swahili adjectives, pronouns and even verbs must agree with nouns. This is a characteristic feature of all the Bantu languages.

Semantic motivation

The ki-/vi- class historically consisted of two separate genders, artefacts (Bantu class 7/8, utensils and hand tools mostly) and diminutives (Bantu class 12/13), which were conflated at a stage ancestral to Swahili. Examples of the former are kisu "knife", kiti "chair" (from mti "tree, wood"), chombo "vessel" (a contraction of ki-ombo). Examples of the latter are kitoto "infant", from mtoto "child"; kitawi "frond", from tawi "branch"; and chumba (ki-umba) "room", from nyumba "house". It is the diminutive sense that has been furthest extended. An extension common to diminutives in many languages is approximation and resemblance (having a 'little bit' of some characteristic, like -y or -ish in English). For example, there is kijani "green", from jani "leaf" (compare English 'leafy'), kichaka "bush" from chaka "clump", and kivuli "shadow" from uvuli "shade". A 'little bit' of a verb would be an instance of an action, and such instantiations (usually not very active ones) are found: kifo "death", from the verb -fa "to die"; kiota "nest" from -ota "to brood"; chakula "food" from kula "to eat"; kivuko "a ford, a pass" from -vuka "to cross"; and kilimia "the Pleiades", from -limia "to farm with", from its role in guiding planting. A resemblance, or being a bit like something, implies marginal status in a category, so things that are marginal examples of their class may take the ki-/vi- prefixes. One example is chura (ki-ura) "frog", which is only half terrestrial and therefore is marginal as an animal. This extension may account for disabilities as well: kilema "a cripple", kipofu "a blind person", kiziwi "a deaf person". Finally, diminutives often denote contempt, and contempt is sometimes expressed against things that are dangerous. This might be the historical explanation for kifaru "rhinoceros", kingugwa "spotted hyena", and kiboko "hippopotamus" (perhaps originally meaning "stubby legs").[61]

Another class with broad semantic extension is the m-/mi- class (Bantu classes 3/4). This is often called the 'tree' class, because mti, miti "tree(s)" is the prototypical example. However, it seems to cover vital entities neither human nor typical animals: trees and other plants, such as mwitu 'forest' and mtama 'millet' (and from there, things made from plants, like mkeka 'mat'); supernatural and natural forces, such as mwezi 'moon', mlima 'mountain', mto 'river'; active things, such as moto 'fire', including active body parts (moyo 'heart', mkono 'hand, arm'); and human groups, which are vital but not themselves human, such as mji 'village', and, by analogy, mzinga 'beehive/cannon'. From the central idea of tree, which is thin, tall, and spreading, comes an extension to other long or extended things or parts of things, such as mwavuli 'umbrella', moshi 'smoke', msumari 'nail'; and from activity there even come active instantiations of verbs, such as mfuo "metal forging", from -fua "to forge", or mlio "a sound", from -lia "to make a sound". Words may be connected to their class by more than one metaphor. For example, mkono is an active body part, and mto is an active natural force, but they are also both long and thin. Things with a trajectory, such as mpaka 'border' and mwendo 'journey', are classified with long thin things, as in many other languages with noun classes. This may be further extended to anything dealing with time, such as mwaka 'year' and perhaps mshahara 'wages'. Animals exceptional in some way and so not easily fitting in the other classes may be placed in this class.

The other classes have foundations that may at first seem similarly counterintuitive.[62] In short,

Borrowing

Borrowings may or may not be given a prefix corresponding to the semantic class they fall in. For example, Arabic دود dūd ("bug, insect") was borrowed as mdudu, plural wadudu, with the class 1/2 prefixes m- and wa-, but Arabic فلوس fulūs ("fish scales", plural of فلس fals) and English sloth were borrowed as simply fulusi ("mahi-mahi" fish) and slothi ("sloth"), with no prefix associated with animals (whether those of class 9/10 or 1/2).

In the process of naturalization[63] of borrowings within Swahili, loanwords are often reinterpreted, or reanalysed,[64] as if they already contain a Swahili class prefix. In such cases the interpreted prefix is changed with the usual rules. Consider the following loanwords from Arabic:

  1. The Swahili word for "book", kitabu, is borrowed from Arabic كتاب kitāb(un) "book" (plural كتب kutub; from the Arabic root k.t.b. "write"). However, the Swahili plural form of this word ("books") is vitabu, following Bantu grammar in which the ki- of kitabu is reanalysed (reinterpreted) as a nominal class prefix whose plural is vi- (class 7/8).[64]
  2. Arabic معلم muʿallim(un) ("teacher", plural معلمين muʿallimīna) was interpreted as having the mw- prefix of class 1, and so became mwalimu, plural walimu.
  3. Arabic مدرسة madrasa school, even though it is singular in Arabic (with plural مدارس madāris), was reinterpreted as a class 6 plural madarasa, receiving the singular form darasa.

Similarly, English wire and Arabic وقت waqt ("time") were interpreted as having the class 11 prevocalic prefix w-, and became waya and wakati with plural nyaya and nyakati respectively.

Agreement

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Swahili phrases agree with nouns in a system of concord but, if the noun refers to a human, they accord with noun classes 1–2 regardless of their noun class. Verbs agree with the noun class of their subjects and objects; adjectives, prepositions and demonstratives agree with the noun class of their nouns. In Standard Swahili (Kiswahili sanifu), based on the dialect spoken in Zanzibar, the system is rather complex; however, it is drastically simplified in many local variants where Swahili is not a native language, such as in Nairobi. In non-native Swahili, concord reflects only animacy: human subjects and objects trigger a-, wa- and m-, wa- in verbal concord, while non-human subjects and objects of whatever class trigger i-, zi-. Infinitives vary between standard ku- and reduced i-.[65] ("Of" is animate wa and inanimate ya, za.)

In Standard Swahili, human subjects and objects of whatever class trigger animacy concord in a-, wa- and m-, wa-, and non-human subjects and objects trigger a variety of gender-concord prefixes.

Swahili noun-class concord
NC Semantic
field
Noun
-C, -V
Subj. Obj. -a Adjective
-C, -i, -e[* 1]
I (mimi) ni-
we (sisi) tu-
thou (wewe) u- ku-
you (ninyi) m- wa-
1 person m-, mw- a- m- wa m-, mwi-, mwe-
2 people wa-, w- wa- wa wa-, we-, we-
3 tree m-, mw- u- wa m-, mwi-, mwe-
4 trees mi- i- ya mi-, mi-, mye-
5 group, AUG ji-/Ø, j- li- la ji-/Ø, ji-, je-
6 groups, AUG ma- ya- ya ma-, me-, me-
7 tool, DIM ki-, ch- ki- cha ki-, ki-, che-
8 tools, DIM vi-, vy- vi- vya vi-, vi-, vye-
9 animals, 'other',
loanwords
N- i- ya N-, nyi-, nye-
10 zi- za
11 'extension' u-, w-/uw- u- wa m-, mwi-, mwe-
10 (plural of 11) N- zi- za N-, nyi-, nye-
14 abstraction u-, w-/uw- u- wa m-, mwi-, mwe-
or u-, wi-, we-
15 infinitives ku-, kw-[* 2] ku- kwa- ku-, kwi-, kwe-
16 precise position -ni, mahali pa- pa pa-, pe-, pe-
17 imprecise position -ni ku- kwa ku-, kwi-, kwe-
18 internal position -ni m(u)- mwa mu-, mwi-, mwe-
  1. ^ Most Swahili adjectives begin with either a consonant or the vowels i- or e-, listed separately above. The few adjectives beginning with other vowels do not agree with all noun classes since some are restricted to humans. NC 1 m(w)- is mw- before a and o, and reduces to m- before u; wa- does not change; and ki-, vi-, mi- become ch-, vy-, my- before o but not before u: mwanana, waanana "gentle", mwororo, waororo, myororo, chororo, vyororo "mild, yielding", mume, waume, kiume, viume "male".
  2. ^ In a few verbs: kwenda, kwisha

Dialects and closely related languages

This list is based on Swahili and Sabaki: a linguistic history.

Dialects

Modern standard Swahili is based on Kiunguja, the dialect spoken in Zanzibar Town, but there are numerous dialects of Swahili, some of which are mutually unintelligible, such as the following:[66]

Old dialects

Maho (2009) considers these to be distinct languages:

The rest of the dialects are divided by him into two groups:

Maho includes the various Comorian dialects as a third group. Most other authorities consider Comorian to be a Sabaki language, distinct from Swahili.[67]

Other regions

In Somalia, where the Afroasiatic Somali language predominates, a variant of Swahili referred to as Chimwiini (also known as Chimbalazi) is spoken along the Benadir coast by the Bravanese people.[49] Another Swahili dialect known as Kibajuni also serves as the mother tongue of the Bajuni minority ethnic group, which lives in the tiny Bajuni Islands as well as the southern Kismayo region.[49][68]

In Oman, there are an estimated 22,000 people who speak Swahili.[69] Most are descendants of those repatriated after the fall of the Sultanate of Zanzibar.[70][71]

Pidgins and creoles

There are Swahili-based slangs, pidgins and creoles:

Swahili poets

Swahili sayings

Loxodonta africana elephants frolic in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, 2012.
Loxodonta africana elephants frolic in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, 2012.

Two sayings with the same meaning of Where elephants fight, the grass is trampled:[72][73]

Wapiganapo

tembo

nyasi

huumia

[74]

Wapiganapo tembo nyasi huumia

Fighting elephants damage the grass.

Ndovu

wawili

wakisongana,

ziumiazo

ni

nyika.

[75]

Ndovu wawili wakisongana, ziumiazo ni nyika.

Where two elephants argue, the grassland is damaged.

Mwacha

mila

ni

mtumwa.

Mwacha mila ni mtumwa.

The person who abandons his culture, is a servant.

See also

References

  1. ^ Thomas J. Hinnebusch, 1992, "Swahili", International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, Oxford, pp. 99–106
    David Dalby, 1999/2000, The Linguasphere Register of the World's Languages and Speech Communities, Linguasphere Press, Volume Two, pp. 733–735
    Benji Wald, 1994, "Sub-Saharan Africa", Atlas of the World's Languages, Routledge, pp. 289–346, maps 80, 81, 85
  2. ^ Hinnebusch, Thomas J. (2003). "Swahili". In William J. Frawley (ed.). International Encyclopedia of Linguistics (2 ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195139778. Archived from the original on 17 August 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2016. First-language (L1) speakers of Swahili, who probably number no more than twenty million
  3. ^ a b Swahili at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
    Congo Swahili at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
    Coastal Swahili at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
    Makwe at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
    Mwani at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  4. ^ Nurse, Derek; Spear, Thomas (10 June 2017). The Swahili: Reconstructing the History and Language of an African Society, 800-1500. ISBN 9781512821666.
  5. ^ "Sadc Adopts Kiswahili as 4th Working Language". European Commission. 30 August 2019. Archived from the original on 18 October 2020. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  6. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  7. ^ Mugane, John (21 June 2022). "The Story of Swahili" (PDF). Center for International Studies,Ohio University. Retrieved 21 June 2022.
  8. ^ Mazrui, Ali Al'Amin. (1995). Swahili state and society : the political economy of an African language. East African Educational Publishers. ISBN 0-85255-729-9. OCLC 441402890.
  9. ^ Prins 1961
  10. ^ "Development and Promotion of Extractive Industries and Mineral Value Addition". East African Community. Archived from the original on 21 October 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  11. ^ "The story of how Swahili became Africa's most spoken language". Nation Media Group. Retrieved 22 February 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "HOME – Home". Swahililanguage.stanford.edu. Archived from the original on 15 December 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016. After Arabic, Swahili is the most widely used African language but the number of its speakers is another area in which there is little agreement. The most commonly mentioned numbers are 50, 80, 100 and 150 million people. [...] The number of its native speakers has been placed at just under 20 million.
  13. ^ "Swahili language". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 23 July 2019. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  14. ^ Sobuwa, Yoliswa (17 September 2018). "Kiswahili gets minister's stamp to be taught in SA schools". The Sowetan. Archived from the original on 18 September 2018. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Botswana to Introduce Swahili Language in Local Schools". 12 October 2020. Archived from the original on 22 March 2021. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  16. ^ "Pandemic disrupts Kiswahili adoption plans". Archived from the original on 5 December 2020. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  17. ^ "AAU to Start Teaching Kiswahili Language – Ethiopian Monitor". Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  18. ^ Mbamalu, Socrates (13 March 2019). "Tanzania to send Kiswahili teachers to South Sudan". This is africa. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  19. ^ Nurse and Hinnebusch, 1993, p.18
  20. ^ Nurse and Hinnebusch, 1993
  21. ^ Derek Nurse, Thomas J. Hinnebusch, Gérard Philippson. 1993. Swahili and Sabaki: A Linguistic History. University of California Press
  22. ^ Derek Nurse, Thomas T. Spear. 1985. Arabic loan words make up to 20% of the language. The Swahili: Reconstructing the History and Language of an African Society, 800–1500. University of Pennsylvania Press
  23. ^ Thomas Spear. 2000. "Early Swahili History Reconsidered". The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 257–290
  24. ^ Polomé, Edgar (1967). Swahili Language Handbook (PDF). Centre for Applied Linguistics. p. 28. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 November 2020. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  25. ^ Ali, Hassan O. "A Brief History of the Swahili Language". Swahili Language & Culture. Archived from the original on 12 May 2017. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  26. ^ "1. Loanwords in Swahili", T. Schadeberg, in Tadmor, Uri. Loanwords in the World's Languages: A Comparative Handbook. Germany: De Gruyter, 2009.
  27. ^ Baldi, Sergio, Arabic Loans in East African Languages through Swahili: A Survey Archived 30 March 2021 at the Wayback Machine, Folia Orientalia, 2012, PAS Journals Repository
  28. ^ Nurse and Hinnebusch, 1993, p. 321
  29. ^ Spear, Thomas (2000). "Early Swahili History Reconsidered". The International Journal of African Historical Studies. 33 (2): 257–290. doi:10.2307/220649. JSTOR 220649.
  30. ^ "A Guide to Swahili - 10 facts about the Swahili language". Archived from the original on 5 September 2017. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  31. ^ Juma, Abdurahman. "Swahili history". glcom.com. Archived from the original on 12 May 2017. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  32. ^ Alpers, E. A. (1975). Ivory and Slaves in East Central Africa. London. pp. 98–99.
  33. ^ Vernet, T. (2002). "Les cités-Etats swahili et la puissance omanaise (1650–1720)". Journal des Africanistes. 72 (2): 102–05. doi:10.3406/jafr.2002.1308.
  34. ^ "Baba yetu". Wikisource. Archived from the original on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  35. ^ "Swahili". About World Languages. Archived from the original on 1 October 2017. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  36. ^ Mdee, James S. (1999). "Dictionaries and the Standardization of Spelling in Swahili". Lexikos. pp. 126–27. Archived from the original on 28 October 2019. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  37. ^ Nurse & Thomas Spear (1985) The Swahili
  38. ^ Kharusi, N. S. (2012). "The Ethnic Label Zinjibari: Politics and Language Choice Implications Among Swahili Speakers in Oman". Ethnicities. 12 (3): 335–353. doi:10.1177/1468796811432681. S2CID 145808915.
  39. ^ Adriaan Hendrik Johan Prins (1961) The Swahili-speaking Peoples of Zanzibar and the East African Coast. (Ethnologue)
  40. ^ (2005 World Bank Data).
  41. ^ "Zana za Uhakiki za Microsoft Office 2016 - Kiingereza". Microsoft Download Center. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  42. ^ a b c d "Salama". 77.240.23.241. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  43. ^ "Helsinki Corpus of Swahili 2.0 (HCS 2.0) – META-SHARE". metashare.csc.fi. Archived from the original on 23 October 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  44. ^ Hurskainen, Arvi. 2018. Sustainable language technology for African languages. In Agwuele, Augustine and Bodomo, Adams (eds), The Routledge Handbook of African Linguistics, 359–375. London: Routledge Publishers. ISBN 978-1-138-22829-0
  45. ^ "The Failure of Language Policy in Tanzanian Schools". Archived from the original on 16 July 2020. Retrieved 13 October 2020.
  46. ^ "Vision and Mission of The National Kiswahili Council". The United Republic of Tanzania National Kiswahili Council. Archived from the original on 22 October 2020. Retrieved 13 October 2020.
  47. ^ "CHAKITA:Chama Cha Kiswahili Cha Taifa". chakita.org. Retrieved 21 June 2022.
  48. ^ "The Federal Republic of Somalia Provisional Constitution of 2012".
  49. ^ a b c d e "Somalia". Ethnologue. 19 February 1999. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  50. ^ Henderson, Brent. "Chimwiini: Endangered Status and Syntactic Distinctiveness" (PDF). ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  51. ^ Nurse, Derek. "When northern Swahili met southern Somali" (PDF). Contemporary African Linguistics.
  52. ^ Scharrer, Tabea (16 June 2018). ""Ambiguous citizens": Kenyan Somalis and the question of belonging". Journal of Eastern African Studies. 12 (3): 494–513. doi:10.1080/17531055.2018.1483864. ISSN 1753-1055. S2CID 149655820.
  53. ^ Weitzberg, Keren (25 July 2017), We Do Not Have Borders: Greater Somalia and the Predicaments of Belonging in Kenya, Ohio University Press, pp. 181–182, doi:10.2307/j.ctv224txv2.16, S2CID 240478166, retrieved 19 January 2022
  54. ^ "Glottolog 4.5 - Northeast Coastal Bantu". glottolog.org. Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  55. ^ a b Contini-Morava, Ellen. 1997. Swahili Phonology. In Kaye, Alan S. (ed.), Phonologies of Asia and Africa 2, 841–860. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns.
  56. ^ a b Swahili Language Handbook (PDF) (Report), archived (PDF) from the original on 27 November 2020, retrieved 12 September 2019
  57. ^ Modern Swahili Grammar East African Publishers, 2001 Mohamed Abdulla Mohamed p. 4
  58. ^ a b Lodhi, Abdulaziz Y. (2003). "Aspiration in Swahili Adjectives and Verbs" (PDF). Africa & Asia. 3: 157. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 July 2020.
  59. ^ "A Guide to Swahili – The Swahili alphabet". BBC. Archived from the original on 12 February 2020. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  60. ^ Jan Knappert (1971) Swahili Islamic poetry, Volume 1
  61. ^ Ellen Contini-Morava (1994) Noun Classification in Swahili.
  62. ^ See Contini-Morava for details.
  63. ^ See pp. 83-84 in Ghil'ad Zuckermann (2020), Revivalistics: From the Genesis of Israeli to Language Reclamation in Australia and Beyond, Oxford University Press Archived 25 November 2020 at the Wayback Machine ISBN 9780199812790 / ISBN 9780199812776.
  64. ^ a b See pp. 11 and 52 in Ghil'ad Zuckermann (2003), Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew, Palgrave Macmillan Archived 12 June 2018 at the Wayback Machine ISBN 9781403917232 / ISBN 9781403938695.
  65. ^ Kamil Ud Deen, 2005. The acquisition of Swahili.
  66. ^ H.E.Lambert 1956, 1957, 1958
  67. ^ Derek Nurse; Thomas Spear; Thomas T. Spear (1985). The Swahili: Reconstructing the History and Language of an African Society, 800–1500. p. 65. ISBN 9780812212075. Archived from the original on 30 March 2021. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  68. ^ Mwakikagile, Godfrey (2007). Kenya: identity of a nation. New Africa Press. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-9802587-9-0. Archived from the original on 23 March 2021. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  69. ^ "Oman". Ethnologue. 19 February 1999. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  70. ^ Fuchs, Martina (5 October 2011). "African Swahili music lives on in Oman". Reuters. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  71. ^ Beate Ursula Josephi, Journalism education in countries with limited media freedom, Volume 1 of Mass Communication and Journalism, (Peter Lang: 2010), p.96.
  72. ^ www.oxfordreference.com When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. Consulted on 13 June 2021.
  73. ^ New York Times 26 March 1936
  74. ^ howafrica.com Animals - 27 Fascinating African Proverbs About Elephants, One of the Big 5 Animals 17. When elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. ~ Kikuyu Proverb. Consulted on 13 June 2021.
  75. ^ afriprov.org Nov. 2001 Proverb: ” When elephants fight the grass (reeds) gets hurt.” – Swahili ( Eastern and Central Africa ), Also Gikuyu ( Kenya), Kuria ( Kenya/Tanzania), Ngoreme (Tanzania). Consulted on 13 June 2021.

Sources