A language of Kenya

Alternate Names
Buma, Bume, Turkwana

989,000 (2009 census). Over 60% monolingual.


Rift Valley Province, Turkana, Samburu, Trans-Nzoia, Laikipia, Isiolo districts, west and south of Lake Turkana; Turkwel and Kerio rivers.

Language Maps
Language Status

5 (Developing).


Northern Turkana, Southern Turkana. Inherently intelligible of Toposa [toq] speakers, but hostile to them. Also partially intelligible of Ng’aKarimojong [kdj], Jie [kdj], and Nyangatom [nnj], but all 5 are ethnically distinct. A few phonological, lexical, and discourse marker differences between them. Northern Turkana [tuv] and Eastern Toposa [toq] are more similar to Southern Turkana [tuv], but Western Toposa [toq] is further apart linguistically. The 4 varieties form a subgroup divided in the middle by the Kenya-Sudan border. Lexical similarity: 85% similarity with Ng’aKarimojong [kdj], 76% with Teso [teo].


VSO; highly inflectional; grammatical tone; vowel harmony; voiceless vowels

Language Use

Vigorous. Home, social gatherings. All ages. Only a few adults also use Kiswahili [swh], Pökoot [pko], or Daasanach [dsh]. Kiswahili use increasing.

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: 5%–10%. Literacy rate in L2: 25%–50%. NT: 1986.
Latin script.
Other Comments

A few Somali and Gikuyu have shops in the area. Semi-nomadic. Unfriendly to other nomadic tribes due to rivalry over livestock. Traditional religion, Christian.