Gusii language

The Gusii language (also known as Kisii or Ekegusii) is a Bantu language spoken in Kisii and Nyamira counties in western Kenya, whose headquarters is Kisii town, (between the Kavirondo Gulf of Lake Victoria and the border with Tanzania). It is spoken by the Gusii people, numbering about 2.0 million (SIL/Ethnologue 1994). It is part of the Niger-Congo language family.

Native toKenya
RegionWestern Kenya, Kisii County & Nyamira County
Native speakers
2.2 million (2009 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3guz



Gusii has seven vowels. Vowel length is contrastive, i.e. the words 'bór' to miss and 'bóór' to say are distinguished by vowel length only.

Phonetic inventory of vowels in Gusii
Front Central Back
Close i u
Near-close e o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a


In the table below, orthographic symbols are included between brackets if they differ from the IPA symbols. Note especially the use of ‘y’ for IPA /j/, common in African orthographies. When symbols appear in pairs, the one to the right represents a voiced consonant.

Phonetic inventory of consonants in Gusii
bilabial alveo-palatal palatal velar
plosive p   b t c (c) k   ɡ
fricative   s    
affricate     cç (c)  
nasal m n ɲ (ny) ŋ (ng')
trill   r    
approximant w   j (y)  

The following morphophonological alternations occur:

  • n+r = nd
  • n+b = mb
  • n+g = ŋg
  • n+k = ŋk
  • n+m = m:


Bickmore, Lee

  • 1997. Problems in constraining High tone spread in Ekegusii. Lingua, vol. 102, pp. 265–290.
  • 1998. Metathesis and Dahl’s Law in Ekegusii. Studies in the Linguistic Sciences, vol. 28:2, pp. 149–168.
  • 1999. High Tone Spreading in Ekegusii Revisited: An Optimality Theoretic Account. Lingua, vol. 109, pp. 109–153.

Cammenga, Jelle

  • 2002 Phonology and morphology of Ekegusii: a Bantu language of Kenya. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

Mreta, Abel Y.

  • 2008 Kisimbiti: Msamiati wa Kisimbiti-Kiingereza-Kiswahili na Kiingereza-Kisimbiti-Kiswahili / Simbiti-English-Swahili and English-Simbiti-Swahili Lexicon. Languages of Tanzania Project, LOT Publications Lexicon Series 7, 106 pp., ISBN 9987-691-09-9.

Whiteley, Wilfred H.

  • 1956 A practical introduction to Gusii. Dar es Salaam/Nairobi/Kampala: East African Literature Bureau.
  • 1960 The tense system of Gusii. Kampala: East African Institute of Social Research.
  • 1974 Language in Kenya. Nairobi: Oxford University Press.

The gusii language has the consonant ' b' not realized as the bilabial stop as in 'bat' but as bilabial fricative as in words like baba, baminto, abana.

See also


  1. ^ Gusii at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Gusii". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online

External links



Gusii may refer to:

the Gusii people

the Gusii language


Kisii may refer to:

Kisii, Kenya, a town in Kisii County

Kisii County, one of the 47 counties of Kenya

Gucha District, in Kenya, also known as South Kisii District

Nyamira District, in Kenya, also known as North Kisii District

Kisii people, an ethnic group in Kenya, also known as Abagusii or Gusii people

Gusii language, spoken by the Kisii people

Kisii School for the Deaf, the only Deaf-run school for Deaf children in Kenya

Kisii stone is a name for soapstone, quarried in Tabaka area of southern Kisii District

Kisii people

The Abagusii (also known as Kisii or Gusii) is a community of Bantu people who inhabit two counties: Kisii (formerly Kisii District) and Nyamira in Nyanza Province, Western Kenya. Mogusii is culturally identified as their founder and patriarch.

Kisii town - known as Bosongo or Getembe by the locals - is located in Nyanza Province to the southwest of Kenya and is home to the Gusii people. The name Bosongo is believed to have originated from Abasongo (to mean the Whites or the place where white people settle(d)) who lived in the town during the colonial times.

According to the 1979 census, Kisii District had a population of 588,000. The AbaGusii increased to 2.2 million in the latest Kenya Census 2009.

Kuria people

The Kuria people (also known as the AbaKurya, are a Bantu community in Tanzania and Kenya. Their homeland is bounded on the east by the Migori River and on the west by the Mara River estuary. Traditionally a farming community, the Kuria grow maize, beans and cassava as food crops and coffee and maize as cash crops.


Mzungu (pronounced [m̩ˈzuŋɡu]) is a Bantu language term used in the African Great Lakes region to refer to people of European descent. It is a commonly used expression among Bantu peoples in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Comoros, Mayotte and Zambia, dating back to the 18th century.

Official languages
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