Ethnologue.com home
Ethnologue > Web version > Country index > Africa > Tanzania > Swahili

Swahili

A language of Tanzania

ISO 639-3swh

Population  350,000 in Tanzania (2006). 313,200 monolinguals. Population total all countries: 787,630.
Region  Zanzibar, coastal areas. Also in Burundi, Canada, Kenya, Libya, Mayotte, Mozambique, Oman, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States.
Language map  Tanzania, reference number 58
Alternate names   Kisuaheli, Kiswahili
Dialects  Mrima, Unguja (Kiunguja, Zanzibar), Pemba, Mgao. The Bajun dialect has 85% lexical similarity with the Amu dialect, 78% with the Mvita, 72% with the Mrima; Mvita has 86% with Amu, 79% with Mrima; Mrima has 79% with Amu.
Classification  Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, G, Swahili (G.40)
A member of macrolanguage Swahili [swa] (Tanzania).
Language use  Official language. 30,000,000 rural people are L2 users; they use the local language for most activities, but Swahili [swh] with outsiders. It is also common for people of numerous ethnic groups besides Swahili who grow up in certain towns to speak Swahili as L1.
Language development  Fully developed. Bible: 1891–1996.
Writing system  Latin script.
Comments  SVO. Muslim, Christian.

Also spoken in:

Burundi

Language name   Swahili
Population  6,360 in Burundi (2000).
Region  Widelyspread in the capital. L1 in Buyenzi, Quartier asiatique, Muslim neighborhoods, and Congolese neighborhoods (probably Congo Swahili). Spoken by Muslims in other cities like Gitega.
Language use  National language. Religious services.
Comments  Muslim.
 

Kenya

Language name   Kiswahili
Population  131,000 in Kenya, increasing. 66,000 Bajuni (1994 I. Larsen BTL), 6,000 Siyu, 3,000 Pate, 15,000 Amu, 25,000 to 30,000 Mvita, 13,900 Shirazi (1989 census), 2,000 Vumba (Heine and Möhlig 1980).
Region  Coast Province.
Language map  Kenya, reference number 21
Alternate names  Arab-Swahili, Kisuahili, Kiswaheli, Suahili
Dialects  Amu, Mvita (Kimvita, Mombasa), Bajuni (Bajun, T’ik’uu, Tikulu, Tukulu, Gunya, Mbalazi, Chimbalazi), Pate, Pemba (Phemba, Hadimu, Tambatu), Mrima, Fundi, Siu (Siyu), Shamba (Kishamba), Matondoni.
Language use  Official language. Classical and modern literature. GIDS 1. All domains. All ages. Positive attitude.
Language development  Literacy rate in L1: 80%. Literacy rate in L2: 70% (English). Kiswahili [swh] is compulsory in primary education. Taught in secondary schools.
Comments  Bajuni most divergent. The Bajuni and Pemba dialects may be separate languages. Traders; small businessmen; Bajun: fishermen; agriculturalists. Muslim.
 

Mayotte

Language name   Swahili
Population  2,740 in Mayotte (Johnstone 1993).
Comments  Muslim.
 

Mozambique

Language name   Swahili
Population  10,000 in Mozambique (2006).
Region  Northern.
Language map  Mozambique, reference number 32
Language use  L2 speakers in Mozambique.
 

Somalia

Language name   Swahili
Population  184,000 in Somalia (2006).
Region  Mwini in Baraawe (Brava), Lower Shabeelle, and scattered in southern towns; Bajun in Kismaayo District and nearby coast. Most fled to Kenya due to civil war.
Language map  Somalia
Dialects  Mwini (Mwiini, Chimwiini, Af-Chimwiini, Barwaani, Bravanese), Bajuni (Kibajuni, Bajun, Af-Bajuun, Mbalazi, Chimbalazi).
Comments  Reportedly came centuries ago from Zanzibar. Mwini: artisans (leather goods); Bajun: fishermen.
 

South Africa

Language name   Swahili
Population  2,000 in South Africa (2006).
Region  Chatsworth, an urban area near Durban on Natal coast.
Alternate names  Arab-Swahili, Kisuahili, Kiswaheli, Suahili
Comments  Zanzibaris brought from Zanzibar and northern Mozambique from 1873 to 1878. Market gardeners. Muslim.
 

Uganda

Language name   Swahili
Population  2,330 in Uganda (2000).
Alternate names  Kisuaheli, Kiswahili
Dialects  Shamba (Kishamba).
Comments  Muslim.