Ekoti language

Ekoti language

region=Koti Island and Angoche, Nampula Province
fam6=Southern Bantoid
fam7=Narrow Bantu

Ekoti (pronounced IPA| [ekot̪i] ) is a Bantu language spoken in Mozambique by about 64,200 peopleref|count, the Akoti. Ekoti is spoken on Koti Island and is also the major language of Angoche, the capital of the district with the same name in the province of Nampula.

In terms of genetic classification, Ekoti is generally considered to belong to the Makhuwa group (P.30 in Guthrie's classification). A large portion of its vocabulary however derives from a past variety of Swahili, today the lingua franca of much of East Africa's coast. This Swahili influence is usually attributed to traders from Kilwa or somewhere else on the Zanzibar Coast, who in the fifteenth century settled at Angoche.ref|stratum

Geography and demography

The place name "Koti" refers primarily to the island. An older form is IPA| [ŋgoji] ; this form with the class 2 nominal prefix "a" for 'people' gave rise to the Portuguese name "Angoche". The much older local African name of Angoche, still in use, is "Parápaátho". Angoche was probably established in the fifteenth century by dissidents from Kilwa.ref|kilwa In the centuries that followed, it flourished as a part of the Indian Ocean trading network.

About nine Akoti villages are found in the coastal areas of Koti island; these are usually accessed by boat. Much of the coastline is covered by mangrove woods ("khava"). On the mainland, there are about five other Akoti villages, all in the vicinity of Angoche. The main economic activity of men in the villages is fishing; the catch is sold on the markets of Angoche. People keep chickens and some goats.

In Makhuwa, the dominant regional language of much of northern Mozambique, the Akoti are called "Maka", just like other coastal Muslim communities that were part of the Indian Ocean trading network. Most Akoti have at least some knowledge of Makhuwa or one of its neighbouring dialects; this extensive bilinguality has had considerable influence on the Ekoti language in recent years.



Ekoti has five vowels. The open vowels IPA|ɛ and IPA|ɔ are normally written "e" and "o". The high vowels "i" and "u" do not occur word-initially. There is a restricted form of vowel harmony in verbal bases which causes /u/ in verbal extensions to be rendered as [o] after another /o/; thus, the separative extensions "-ul-" and "-uw-" appear as "-ol-" and "-ow-" after the vowel "o". Furthermore, a distributional analysis shows that /o/ tends to occur mainly after another /o/, and only rarely after the other vowels.ref|vowelsVowel length is contrastive in Ekoti, except in word-final position. Long vowels are best treated as two tone-bearing units. Several vowel coalescense processes do take place, within words as well as across morpheme boundaries: "mathápá mawíxí apa" → "mathápá mawíx'áapa" 'these green leaves' (the apostroph shows the location of coalescence). In case of word-final 'i' it is sometimes accompanied with glide formation: "olíli áka" → "olíly'aáka" 'my bed'.ref|coalescence


The table below shows the consonant inventory of Ekoti.ref|consonants The two glides "w" and "y" are only phonemically contrastive in certain contexts; in some other contexts, they can be derived from vowels. Consonants in parentheses are extremely rare, with the only example of "dh" in S&M's corpus, "adhuhuri" 'second prayer in the morning', being in variation with "aduhuri"; the fricative "zh" occurs only in some recent loans from Portuguese. Voiced stops are rather infrequent overall, and they tend to occur after a homorganic, tone-bearing nasal. Additionally, voiced stops often vary with their voiceless unaspirated counterparts.

Words in Ekoti show incompatibility of aspirated consonants; this phenomenon is dubbed "Katupha's Law" in Schadeberg (1999), and is found in related Makhuwa languages as well. If two aspirated consonants are brought together in one stem, the first such consonant loses its aspiration. The effect is particularly clear in reduplicated words: "kopikophi" 'eyelash'; "piriphiri" 'pepper' (cf. Swahili 'piripiri'); "okukuttha" 'to wipe'.Another incompatibility concerns dental and retroflex consonants, which never occur together within a stem, and usually dissimilate when brought together. Consider the class 1 demonstrative for example: "o-tthu-o-tu" becomes "othuutu" under influence of the dentral-retroflex incompatibility.


Ekoti, like most Bantu languages, is a register tone language with two tones: High and Low. Tone is not lexically distinctive for verbs, but it is very important in verbal inflection and in some other parts of grammar. Contour tones (falling and rising tones) do occur, but only on long vowels, therefore they are analysed as sequences of the H and L level tones. There is a process of High Doubling which spreads any H tone to the following tone bearing unit, and a process of Final Lowering which deletes any utterance-final High tone. Both can be seen in effect in the following example (Low tone is unmarked): "kaláwa" 'boat', "kaláwá khuúlu" 'the biggest boat'. In "kaláwa", High doubling is canceled because Final Lowering applies, so the last syllable has a Low tone. In the second example, the first H tone in "kaláwá" has spread to the next syllable (High Doubling) and Final Lowering again causes the very last syllable of the utterance to be Low in tone.


Ekoti has a typical Bantu noun class system, in which every noun belongs to a nominal class which class markers throughout the sentence are in agreement with. Classes pair up in 'genders' for the derivation of plurals. Verbal words consist of a "stem" to which various morphemes and clitics can be affixed.

Notes and references


# Mucanheia 1997 as cited in Schadeberg & Mucanheia (henceforth S&M) 2000:4.
# S&M, p.7 cite Newitt 1995 as saying that these traders, probably from Kilwa, established Angoche; however, they do not exclude the possibility of a much earlier Swahili settlement in Angoche.
# See note 2 above.
# S&M, 17-8.
# S&M, 19.
# Adapted from S&M, 10. Symbols are given according to the orthography used in S&M; IPA transcriptions are provided where the symbols differ from their IPA value. Where symbols appear in pairs, the one to the right represents the voiced consonant.


*Schadeberg, Thilo C. (1999) 'Katupha's Law in Makhuwa', in "Bantu historical linguistics: Theoretical and empirical perspectives", ed. by J.-M. Hombert and L.M. Hyman. Stanford: CSLI, pp. 379-394.
*Schadeberg, Thilo C. & Mucanheia, Francisco Ussene (2000) "Ekoti: The Maka or Swahili language of Angoche". Köln: Rüdiger Köppe.

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