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Swahili language


The Swahili language, also known as Kiswahili, is a Bantu language and the first language of the Swahili people. It is a lingua franca of the African Great Lakes region and other parts of Southeast Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambiqueand the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[6] The closely related Comorian language, spoken in the Comoros Islands, is sometimes considered a dialect. Origin Swahili is traditionally regarded as being the language of coastal areas of Tanzania and Kenya, formalised after independence by presidents of the African Great Lakes region. It was first spoken by natives of the coastal mainland and spread as a fisherman's language to the various islands surrounding the Swahili Coast. Traders from these islands had extensive contact with the coastal peoples from at least the 2nd century A.D. and Swahili began to spread along the Swahili Coast from at least the 6th century. There is also cultural evidence of early Zaramo people settlement on Zanzibar from Dar-es-salaam in present-day Tanzania. Current status Swahili has become a second language spoken by tens of millions in three African Great Lakes countries, Tanzania, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it is an official or national language. The neighboring nation of Uganda made Swahili a required subject in primary schools in 1992—although this mandate has not been well implemented—and declared it an official language in 2005 in preparation for the East African Federation. Swahili, or other closely related languages, is spoken by relatively small numbers of people in Burundi, the Comoros, Rwanda, northern Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. Orthography Swahili is currently written in a slightly defective alphabet using the Latin script; the defectiveness comes in not distinguishing aspirated consonants, though those are not distinguished in all dialects. (These were, however, distinguished as kh etc. in the old German colonial Latin alphabet.) There are two digraphs for native sounds, ch and sh;c is not used apart from unassimilated English loans and occasionally as a substitute for k in advertisements. There are in addition several digraphs for Arabic sounds which are not distinguished in pronunciation outside of traditional Swahili areas.