Nyakyusa language

Nyakyusa, or Nyakyusa-Ngonde, is a Bantu language of Tanzania and Malawi spoken by the Nyakyusa people around the northern end of Lake Malawi. There is no single name for the language as a whole; dialects are Nyakyusa, Ngonde (Konde), Kukwe, Mwamba (Lungulu), and Selya (Salya, Seria) of Tanzania. Disregarding the Bantu language prefixes Iki- and Ki-, the language is also known as Konde ~ Nkhonde, Mombe, Nyekyosa ~ Nyikyusa, and Sochile ~ Sokili.

Sukwa is often listed as another dialect, but according to Nurse (1988) and Fourshey (2002) it is a dialect of Lambya.

In Malawi Nyakusa and Kyangonde are spoken in the northern part of Karonga District, on the shore of Lake Malawi close to the border with Tanzania, while Nkhonde is spoken the centre of the district, including in the town of Karonga.[4]

According to the Language Mapping Survey for Northern Malawi carried out by the Centre for Language Studies of the University of Malawi, "Nyakyuska, though spoken by very few people, mainly at Iponga in Sub T/ A Mwakawoko’s area, is regarded as the parent language from which Kyangonde and Chinkhonde originated. Kyangonde, on the other hand, is regarded as the most prestigious and standard language/dialect of the district. ... Chinkhonde is seen as a dialect of Kyangonde which has been heavily influenced by Citumbuka."[5]

The same Survey contains a folktale (the Tortoise and the Hare) in Chinkhonde and other languages of Northern Malawi, as well as some comparative vocabulary.[6]

Below is the Tortoise and the Hare folktale in Chinkhonde.

KALULU NU UFULU: Ufulu abukire polenga ifyakulya ku bandu. Pakwegha thumba lyake akapinyilira ku luropo litali no fwara msingo lyake, linga akwenda lithumba likisagha mnyuma. Apo akagha mu njira, ukalulu akisagha mnyuma papo atiri “ehe, thumba lyangu” Ufulu atiri, we thumba lyangu ili keta luropo mphinyilire nkhuguza linga nkwenda”. Ukalulu akanire ayobire kuti “Tubuke kumphala kuburongo”. Mphala yolongire batumire chingwe icho Ufulu apinyilire thumba. Bakegha thumba bampere Ukalulu. Lisiku limo Ukalulu akendagha, Ufulu amwaghire papo atiri “ehe, mchira wangu!” Ukalulu atiri “Sa! We fulu mchira wangu ubu”. Ufulu akanire po atiri “nsalire wangu”. Babukire sona ku Mphala kuburongi. Ku Mphala inongwa yinoghire Ufulu. Batumwire mchira wa Kalulu no mupa Fulu. [7]

Native toTanzania, Malawi
Native speakers
1,359,000 (2009-2016)[1]
(including Sukwa)
Language codes
ISO 639-3nyy
Linguasphere99-AUS-v incl. inner units & varieties 99-AUS-va...-vd

Further reading

Bastian Persohn (2017). The Verb in Nyakyusa: A focus on tense, aspect, and modality. Berlin: Language Science Press. http://langsci-press.org/catalog/book/141. ISBN 978-3-96110-014-9 . DOI 10.5281/zenodo.926408. Open Access.


  1. ^ "Nyakyusa-Ngonde". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-08-10.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nyakyusa-Ngonde". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  4. ^ Centre for Language Studies map of Northern Malawi Languages.
  5. ^ Language Mapping Survey (2006), p. 17.
  6. ^ Language Mapping Survey p.63 and 70-71.
  7. ^ [1], p. 17.
Kisi people

The Kisi are an ethnic and linguistic group from Njombe Region, Tanzania, on the northwestern shore of Lake Malawi. In 2001 the Kisi population was estimated to number 18,000, of whom 10,200 spoke the Kisi language. They began using the Nyakyusa language as a second language only in 1900.

Kisi women bartered homemade pots while Kisi fishermen exchanged these pots inland with their catch (which included hippopotamus) for cattle from the Sangu. They also transported people across Lake Nyassa by canoe.

They are found alongside Lake Nyasa in Ludewa District in Iringa Region. Their main economic activity is fishing, however, other activities are like making pots and agriculture where they grow cassava. From Ludewa District to Lupingu (where most of the Kisi are located), it is not far, however there are several mountains and hills with a rough road which make transport difficult.

Therefore in the past, most of the time the Kisi people were travelling on foot from Lupingu to Ludewa, carrying pots and fish, which they were selling them to Ludewa District.

Examples of Kisi native names are like Ngalawa and Tondola.


Nyakyusa may refer to:

the Nyakyusa people

the Nyakyusa language

Nyakyusa people

The Nyakyusa (also called the Sokile, Ngonde or Nkonde) are an African ethnic and linguistic group who live in the fertile mountains of southern Tanzania and northern Malawi—former German East Africa. They speak the Nyakyusa language, a member of the Bantu language family. In 1993 the Nyakusa population was estimated to number 1,050,000, with 750,000 living in Tanzania and 300,000 in Malawi. Nyakyusa are marked as highly educated and eager agriculturists . The Nyakyusa are colonising people where success and survival depended on individual effort. Nyakyusa have managed to collect vast wealth from trade and agriculture than any tribe in Tanzania [1].

Historically, they were called the 'Ngonde' below the Songwe River in British Nyasaland, and 'Nyakyusa' above the river in German territory. The two groups were identical in language and culture, so much so that the Germans referred to the Nyakyusa region above the Songwe River and its people as 'Konde', at least until 1935.

Official languages


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