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Spoken in Rwanda, Uganda
Total speakers Over 12 million[1]
Language family Niger-Congo
Official status
Official language in Rwanda
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1 rw
ISO 639-2 kin
ISO 639-3 kin

Kinyarwanda (also known simply as Rwanda) is a Bantu language spoken primarily in Rwanda, where it is one of the official languages of the country, as well as in southern Uganda. Kinyarwanda is mutually intelligible with Kirundi, an official language of Burundi.[1]





Kinyarwanda is a tonal language.


A a B b C c Cy cy D d E e F f G g H h I i
J j Jy jy K k L l M m N n Nk nk Nt nt Ny ny O o
P p R r S s Sh sh T t U u V v W w Y y Z z

'ki' and 'ke' can be pronounced interchangeably as [ki] and [ke] or [chi] and [che] according to speaker's preference

An 'a', 'e', or 'i' at the end of a word followed by a word starting with a vowel often follows a pattern of omission (observed in the following excerpt of the Rwandan anthem) in common speech, though the orthography remains the same. For example, Reka tukurate tukuvuge ibigwi wowe utubumbiye hamwe twese Abanyarwanda uko watubyaye berwa, sugira, singizwa iteka. would be pronounced as "reka tukurate tukuvug' ibigwi wow' utubumiye hamwe twes' abanyarwand' uko watubyaye berwa, sugira singizw' iteka."

In the colloquial language, there are some discrepancies from orthographic Cw and Cy. Specifically, rw (as in Rwanda) is often pronounced /ɾɡw/. The most obvious differences are:

Orthog. Pron.
rw /ɾɡw/
pw /pk/
bw /bɡ/
mw /mŋ/
my /mɲ/
tw /tkw/
dw /dɡw /
cw /tʃkw/
by /bdʒ/

Note that these are all sequences; /bɡ/, for example, is not labio-velar /b͡ɡ/. Even when Rwanda is pronounced /ɾwanda/, the onset is a sequence.



Kinyarwanda has ten noun classes pairs:

singular plural type of words
I (u)mu- (a)ba- humans
II (u)mu- (i)mi-
III (i)(ri)- (a)ma-
IV (i)ki- or (i)gi- (i)bi-
V (i)n- (i)n-
VI (u)ru- (i)n-
VII (a)ka- (u)tu-
VIII (u)bu- (u)bu-
IX (u)ku- (a)ma-
X (a)ha- (a)ha-

When preceded by a demonstrative, the vowel prefix is dropped. (e.g. umu-mu-). Class I is used for words representing humans.


All Kinyarwanda verb infinitives begin with gu- or ku- (morphed into kw- before vowels). To conjugate, the infinitive prefix is removed and replaced with a prefix agreeing with the subject. Then a tense infix can be inserted.

singular singular before vowels plural
I a- y- ba-
II u- i-
III ri- a-
IV ki- cy- bi-
V i- zi-
VI ru- bi-
VII ka- tu-
VIII bu- bu-
IX ku- a-
X ha- ha-

The prefixes for pronouns are as follows:

  • 'I' = n-
  • 'you' (sing.) = u-
  • 'he/she' = y-/a- (i.e. the singular Class I prefix above)
  • 'we' = tu-
  • 'you' (pl.) = mu-
  • 'they' (human) = ba- (i.e. the singular Class I prefix above)

Tense markers include the following.

  • Present ('I do'): - (no infix)
  • Present progressive ('I am doing'): -ra- (morphs to -da- when preceded by n)
  • Future ('I will do'): -za-
  • Continuous progressive ('I'm still doing'): -racya-
Example translations
Yego Yes
Oya No
Uvuga icyongereza? Do you speak English?
Bite? What's Up?
Mwaramutse Hi/Good Morning
Amata Milk
Ejo Yesterday
Ejo hazaza Tomorrow
Nzaza ejo I will come tomorrow
Ubu Now
Ubufaransa France
Ubwongereza England
Amerika America
Ubudage Germany
Ububirigi Belgium

The past tense can be formed by using the present and present progressive infixes and modifying the apect marker suffix.


  1. ^ a b Ethnologue, 15th ed.


  • Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (15th ed. ed.). Dallas: SIL.  
  • Habumuremyi, Emmanuel et al. (2006). IRIZA-STARTER 2006: The 1st Kinyarwanda-English and English-Kinyarwanda Dictionary. Kigali: Rural ICT-Net.  
  • Jouannet, Francis (ed.) (1983) (in French). Le Kinyarwanda, langue bantu du Rwanda. Paris: SELAF.  
  • Kimenyi, Alexandre (1980). A Relational Grammar of Kinyarwanda. University of California Press.  

External links

Kinyarwanda edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun




  1. A Bantu language spoken in Rwanda.

Related terms

  • Rwandan
  • Rwandan culture
  • Rwandophone

External links


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection


Links in Detailed Contents must be altered to point to subpages. Order of Brief and Detailed Contents need to match.

Brief Contents

Detailed Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Grammar
    1. /Grammar/Nouns
      1. /Grammar/Nouns/Concrete
        1. /Grammar/Nouns/Proper
        2. /Grammar/Nouns/Common
          1. /Grammar/Nouns/Individual
          2. [/Grammar/Nouns/[Collective]]
      2. /Grammar/Nouns/Abstract
        1. /Grammar/Nouns/Attribute
        2. /Grammar/Nouns/Verbal
      3. /Grammar/Nouns/Words and word groups used as nouns
        1. /Grammar/Adjectives made nouns
        2. /Grammar/Pronouns made nouns
        3. /Grammar/Verbs made nouns
        4. /Grammar/Participles made nouns
        5. /Grammar/Adverbs made nouns
        6. /Grammar/Conjunctions made nouns
      4. /Grammar/Countable and uncountable nouns
      5. /Grammar/Compound nouns
      6. /Grammar/Inflections of Nouns
        1. /Grammar/Genders
        2. /Grammar/Numbers
        3. /Grammar/Cases
      7. /Grammar/The noun as a modifier
      8. /Grammar/The syntactic functions of nouns
      9. /Grammar/References
  3. Verbs
    1. /Grammar/Present and past
      1. /Grammar/Present simple
      2. /Grammar/Present continuous
      3. /Grammar/Present simple and present continuous
      4. /Grammar/Past simple
      5. /Grammar/Past continuous
      6. /Grammar/Past simple and past continuous
    2. /Grammar/Present perfect and past
      1. /Grammar/Present perfect
      2. /Grammar/Present perfect continuous
      3. /Grammar/Present perfect and past
      4. /Grammar/Past perfect
      5. /Grammar/Past perfect continuous
      6. /Grammar/Past perfect and simple past
    3. Future
      1. /Grammar/Future perfect
      2. /Grammar/Future perfect continuous
      3. /Grammar/Future simple
      4. /Grammar/Future with 'ngiye'
  4. Pronouns
    1. /Grammar/Demonstrative pronouns
    2. /Grammar/Interrogative pronouns
    3. /Grammar/Personal pronouns
    4. /Grammar/Possessive pronouns
    5. /Grammar/Relative pronouns
  5. /Grammar/Adjectives and adverbs
    1. Adjectives
      1. /Grammar/Function
      2. /Grammar/Form
      3. /Grammar/Adjectives word order
      4. /Grammar/Personality adjectives
      5. /Grammar/Adjectives from nouns
    2. Adverbs
      1. /Grammar/Function
      2. /Grammar/Adverb form
      3. /Grammar/Kinds of adverbs
        1. /Grammar/Adverbs of degree
        2. /Grammar/Adverbs of time
        3. /Grammar/Adverbs of manner
        4. /Grammar/Adverbs of place
        5. /Grammar/Conjunctive adverbs
      4. /Grammar/Adverbs word order
      5. /Grammar/Comparative forms of adverbs
      6. /Grammar/Adverbs with different forms and meanings
      7. /Grammar/Adverbs with different forms and same meanings
    3. /Grammar/Adjectives and adverbs
    4. /Grammar/Comparison
    5. /Grammar/Superlatives
  6. Conjunctions
  7. Prepositions
  8. Interjections
  9. Functions
  10. Gerund and participles
  11. Punctuation
  12. Orthography
  13. Pronunciation
  14. Syntax
    1. Appositives
    2. Figures of Syntax
  15. Study guide


  1. Jouannet, Francis (ed.) (1983). Le Kinyarwanda, langue bantu du Rwanda. Paris: Société d’Études Linguistiques et Anthropologiques de France (SELAF).
  2. Kimenyi, Alexandre (1980). A Relational Grammar of Kinyarwanda. University of California Press.
  3. Kimenyi, Alexandre . Kinyarwanda. California State University at Sacramento. [Online]:
  4. Habumuremyi, Emmanuel et al. (2006). IRIZA-STARTER 2006: The 1st Kinyarwanda-English and English-Kinyarwanda Dictionary. Kigali: Rural ICT-Net


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