Swahili language

Ajami: كِيْسْوَاحِيْلِيْ
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.
Native speakers
Estimates for L1 speakers range from 2 million (2003)[2] to 18 million (2012)[3]
Combined L1 and L2 speakers: 200 million[4]
Early form
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 (?)
  • G.42–43;
  • G.40.A–H (pidgins & creoles)
Maeneo penye wasemaji wa Kiswahili.png
Geographic-administrative extent of Swahili. Dark: native range (the Swahili coast). Medium green: official use. Light green: no official or national language status.
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.

Swahili, also known by its native name Kiswahili, is the native language of the Swahili people, who are found primarily in Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique (along the East African coast and adjacent litoral islands).[8] It is a Bantu language, though Swahili has borrowed a number of words from foreign languages, particularly Arabic, but also words from Portuguese, English and German. Around forty percent of Swahili vocabulary consists of Arabic loanwords,[9] 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 era of contact between Arab slave traders and the Bantu inhabitants of the east coast of Africa, which was also the time period when Swahili emerged as a lingua franca in the region.[10] The number of Swahili speakers, be they native or second-language speakers, is estimated to be approximately 200 million.[11][12]

Due to concerted efforts by the government of 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.[13][14][15] Swahili is also one of the working languages of the African Union and of the Southern African Development Community. The East African Community created an institution called the East African Kiswahili Commission (EACK) which began operations in 2015. The institution currently serves as the leading body for promoting the language in the East African region, as well as for coordinating its development and usage for regional integration and sustainable development.[16] In recent years South Africa,[17] Botswana,[18] Namibia,[19] Ethiopia,[20] and South Sudan[21] have begun offering Swahili as a subject in schools or have developed plans to do so.

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.[22][23] In 2022, based on Swahili's growth as a prominent international language, the United Nations declared Swahili Language Day as 7 July to commemorate the date that Julius Nyerere adopted the Swahili as a unifying language for African independence struggles.[24]

  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. ^ 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. ^ "The story of how Swahili became Africa's most spoken language". 23 February 2022.
  5. ^ Nurse, Derek; Spear, Thomas (10 June 2017). The Swahili: Reconstructing the History and Language of an African Society, 800-1500. ISBN 9781512821666.
  6. ^ "Sadc Adopts Kiswahili as 4th Working Language". European Commission. 30 August 2019. Archived from the original on 18 October 2020. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  7. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  8. ^ Mugane, John (21 June 2022). "The Story of Swahili" (PDF). Center for International Studies,Ohio University. Retrieved 21 June 2022.
  9. ^ "'It's time we move from the coloniser's language'". BBC News. 17 February 2022.
  10. ^ "Swahili language". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 23 July 2019. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  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. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Prins 1961
  15. ^ "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.
  16. ^ Press Release on EAKC
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "Botswana to Introduce Swahili Language in Local Schools". 12 October 2020. Archived from the original on 22 March 2021. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  19. ^ "Pandemic disrupts Kiswahili adoption plans". Archived from the original on 5 December 2020. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  20. ^ "AAU to Start Teaching Kiswahili Language – Ethiopian Monitor". 9 February 2022. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  21. ^ Mbamalu, Socrates (13 March 2019). "Tanzania to send Kiswahili teachers to South Sudan". This is africa. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  22. ^ Nurse and Hinnebusch, 1993, p.18
  23. ^ Nurse and Hinnebusch, 1993
  24. ^ "World Kiswahili Language Day". unesco.org. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 9 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

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