Gusii language

Gusii language

region=Western Kenya, Gusii district
speakers=1,5 million
fam6=Southern Bantoid
fam7=Narrow Bantu

The Gusii language (also known as Kisii or Ekegusii) is a Bantu language spoken in the Kisii district in western Kenya,whose head-quarters is Kisii town, (between the Kavirondo Gulf of Lake Victoria and the border with Tanzania). It is spoken by the Gusii people, numbering about 1.5 million (SIL/Ethnologue 1994). Many Gusii are bilingual in Luo.


Gusii is classified as a Central Bantu language, part of the subfamily of Kuria languages labeled E.10 in Guthrie's zonal classification of Bantu languages. Related languages are found mainly in Tanzania, and include Ware, Ikizu, Ikoma, and Kuria.



Gusii has seven vowels. Vowel length is contrastive, i.e. the words 'bór' "to miss" and 'bóór' "to say" are distinguished by vowel length only.


In the table below, orthographic symbols are included between brackets if they differ from the IPA symbols. Note especially the use of ‘y’ for IPA IPA|/j/, common in African orthographies. When symbols appear in pairs, the one to the right represents a voiced consonant.

Phonetic inventory of consonants in Gusii, IPA notation.
. bilabial alveo-palatal palatal velar
plosive p b t c (c) k g
fricative s
affricate cç (c)
nasal m n ɲ (ny) ŋ (ng')
trill r
approximant w j (y)

The following morphophonological alternations occur:
* n+r = nd
* n+b = mb
* n+g = ŋg
* n+k = ŋk
* n+m = mm


* Cammenga, Jelle (2002) "Phonology and morphology of Ekegusii: a Bantu language of Kenya". Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
* Whiteley, Wilfred H. (1956) "A practical introduction to Gusii". Dar es Salaam/Nairobi/Kampala: East African Literature Bureau.
* Whiteley, Wilfred H. (1960) "The tense system of Gusii". Kampala: East African Institute of Social Research.
* Whiteley, Wilfred H. (1974) "Language in Kenia". Nairobi: Oxford University Press.

External links

* [ Ekegusii-English English-Ekegusii Dictionary]
* [ Ethnologue on Gusii]
* [ Partial Gusii Swadesh list at Rosetta Project]


* [ National Public Radio story about Kisii language] (from "All Things Considered" program, April 29, 2006)

ee also

* Languages of Kenya

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