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Gusii language: Wikis


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Spoken in Kenya
Region Western Kenya, Gusii district
Total speakers 1,5 million
Language family Niger-Congo
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 bnt
ISO 639-3 guz

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.

Phonetic inventory of vowels in Gusii
. Front Central Back
Close i u
Near-close ɪ ʊ
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a


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 /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


Bickmore, Lee

  • 1997. Problems in constraining High tone spread in Ekegusii. Lingua, vol. 102, pp. 265-290.
  • 1998. Metathesis and Dahl’s Law in Ekegusii. Studies in the Linguistic Sciences, vol. 28:2, pp. 149-168.
  • 1999. High Tone Spreading in Ekegusii Revisited: An Optimality Theoretic Account. Lingua, vol. 109, pp. 109-153.

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.
  • 1960 The tense system of Gusii. Kampala: East African Institute of Social Research.
  • 1974 Language in Kenia. Nairobi: Oxford University Press.

External links


See also


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