A language of Kenya

Alternate Names
Atharaka, Saraka, Sharoka, Tharaka

176,000 (2009 census), increasing. 61,600 monolinguals.


Embu, Meru, and Tharaka-Nithi counties.

Language Maps
Language Status

5 (Developing).


Gatue (North Tharaka), Ntugi (Central Tharaka), Igoki, Thagicu. Thagicu dialect has extensive Kamba [kam] borrowings. Gatue is influential. Difficult intelligibility of northern Kimîîru [mer] dialects. Some Meru words have offensive meanings in Kitharaka. Lexical similarity: with Chuka [cuh].

Language Use

Older people’s dialect more prestigious due to lack of borrowings. Many now use written materials. Home, social gatherings. Used by all. Positive attitudes. Also use Gikuyu [kik], Kimîîru [mer]. Also use English [eng], in schools and offices. Also use Swahili [swh], especially in churches, schools, jobs, and sometimes in the home.

Language Development

Literacy rate in L1: Below 15%. Literacy rate in L2: 45% in Kiswahili [swh] or English [eng]. L1 books in schools since 2003. Thriving mother-tongue education in schools. Taught in primary schools. Literature. Radio. Videos. NT: 2000–2002.


Latin script [Latn], in development.

Other Comments

Attitudes changing. People now view their language as important. Christian, traditional religion.

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