A language of Tanzania

Alternate Names

47,000,000 in Tanzania, all users. L1 users: 15,000,000 in Tanzania (2012), increasing. L2 users: 32,000,000 (2015 D. Nurse). Total users in all countries: 98,327,740 (as L1: 16,027,740; as L2: 82,300,000).


Widespread. Unguja North and Unguja South regions: coastal areas.

Language Status

1 (National). De facto national language.


Mrima (Mtang’ata), Unguja (Kiunguja, Zanzibar), Pemba, Mgao (Kimgao). Lexical similarity: Bajun dialect 85% with the Amu dialect, 78% with the Mvita dialect, 72% with the Mrima dialect; Mvita dialect 86% with Amu, 79% with Mrima; Mrima dialect 79% with Amu. A member of macrolanguage Swahili [swa].


SVO; prepositions; noun head initial; 7 noun classes; no articles; verb affixes mark person, number, object; passives; causatives; comparatives; 22 consonant and 5 vowel phonemes; non-tonal; stress on penultimate syllable.

Language Use

It is also common for people of numerous ethnic groups to speak Swahili as L1, especially in urban and very mixed areas. All domains. Used by all. Positive attitudes.

Language Development

Language of instruction in primary school. In secondary school taught as a subject. Taught in primary and secondary schools. Fully developed. Bible: 1891–2009.


Braille script [Brai]. Latin script [Latn].

Other Comments

Muslim, Christian, traditional religion.

Also spoken in:

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