21st Edition



A language of Kenya

Alternate Names
Masai, ɔl Maa

842,000 (2009 census), increasing. Total users in all countries: 1,524,000.


Kajiado and Narok counties; Kiambu county: enclave west of Nairobi; Laikipia county: enclave north of Nairobi; Taita-Taveta county: small border area.

Language Maps
Language Status

5 (Developing).


Kaputiei, Keekonyokie, Matapo, Laitokitok, Iloodokilani, Damat, Purko, Loitai, Siria, Moitanik (Wuasinkishu), Kore, Arusa (Arusha), Parakuyo (Baraguyu, Ilparakuyo, Kwavi), Kisonko. Arusha is distinct from Bantu Chaga-related variety. Reportedly Arusha, who are pastoralists, dress like Maasai and speak a Maasai-related variety; whereas, agriculturalists intermarry with the Chaga. Other sources say the Arusha originally spoke a Bantu language. Lexical similarity: 82%–86% between Kenya and Tanzania dialects. Purko has 91%–96% lexical similarity with other Kenya dialects, 82% with Baraguyu, 86% with Arusa, 77%–89% with Samburu [saq], 82%–89% with Chamus [saq], 60% with Ngasa [nsg] (Ongamo).



Language Use

The Kore dialect now speak Somali [som] as L1. Home, community. All ages. Positive attitudes. Also use English [eng], Swahili [swh]. Used as L2 by Omotik [omt], Yaaku [muu].

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: 10%. Literacy rate in L2: 30%. Taught in primary schools. Literature. Radio. Dictionary. Grammar. Texts. Bible: 1991.

Latin script [Latn].

Other Comments

Seminomadic. Purko is the largest dialect in Kenya and centrally located. Traditional religion, Christian.

Also spoken in:

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