|Native to||Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania|
|Native speakers||unknown (undated figure of 3.1 million)|
Yao is a Bantu language in Africa with approximately 1 million speakers in Malawi, half a million in Tanzania, and around 450,000 in Mozambique. There are also some speakers in Zambia. In Malawi, the main dialect is Mangoche, mostly spoken around Lake Malawi. In Mozambique, the main dialects are Makale and Massaninga. The language has also gone by several other names in English, including chiYao or ciYao (the prefixed form), Achawa, Adsawa, Adsoa, Ajawa, Ayawa, Ayo, Ayao, Djao, Haiao, Hiao, Hyao, Jao, Veiao, and waJao.
In common with very many vernacular languages in Africa, it has historically enjoyed little official recognition and literary work in the region where Yao is spoken has taken place in such languages as Arabic, English, German and Portuguese.
Phonetics and orthography
As in English, unvoiced plosives are breathed and voiced plosives are not. There are conventionally only five 'pure' vowels, viz. a, e, i, o, u, though there is some variation in vowel length. Yao is minimally tonal language, as is common in Bantu languages.
In each of the main three countries where Yao is spoken, the orthography differs widely, and there is a low literacy rate. In Tanzania, the orthography is based on that of Swahili, whereas in Malawi it is based on that of Chewa. The Malawian form uses the following characters:
Yao is an SVO language. Like all Bantu languages, Yao is agglutinative, with a highly regular paradigm of verbal inflection, and its nouns placed in a variety of classes indicated by prefixes, these partially corresponding to actual categories of objects or people. To each class is associated a characteristic, used in the formation of pronouns and concord links, prefixes used before verbs governed by, and adjectives describing, a noun of the given class.
|Class||Prefix||Class characteristic||Used for|
|1||m-, mu-, mw-||ju||persons singular|
|2||ŵa-, a-, acha-, achi-||ŵa||persons plural|
|3||m-, mu-, mw-||u||living things singular|
|4||mi-||ji||living things plural|
|5||li-, ly-||li||miscellaneous singular|
|6||ma-||ga||plurals of class 5|
|7||chi-, ch'-||chi||miscellaneous singular|
|8||i-, y-||i||plurals of class 7|
|9||n-, ny-, mb-, (nw-)||ji||miscellaneous singular|
|10||n-, ny-, mb-, (nw-)||si||plurals of class 9|
|11||lu-||lu||like 9, also singulars of class 10|
|12||tu-||tu||plurals of class 13|
|14||u-||u||collective and abstract, no plural; also some singulars of class 6|
|15b||(ku-, kwa-)||ku||locality (to)|
|17||(mu-, mwa-)||mu||locality (in)|
The corresponding concord links are identical to the nominal prefixes except in the cases of classes 1 and 2, which have concord links 'mb-' and 'a-' respectively. The convention of inclusing classes 15b, 16 and 17 deviates from the traditional Bantu system, their prefixes being more properly prepositional or case determiners.
The personal forms are given below, with informal forms given in brackets.
|Personal form prefix||English equivalent (pronoun)|
|a-||he, she, it, you|
|m-, mu-, mw-||you|
|ŵa-, a-||they (he, you)|
There are affirmative and negative forms of the verb, each with approximately the following divisions:
As in many Bantu languages, this is characterised by an ending 'a'. Present, immediate future, present perfect, past and past perfect tenses are distinguished, the last being irregular in formation.
The subjunctive mood is similar in form to the indicative, but as in many Bantu languages, the final 'a' is changed to 'e'. It can be used as a polite imperative, and is usually associated with subordinate clauses.
To form the 'ordinary' (often less polite) imperative, the simple stem may be used, or 'n' may be prefixed to the indicative, or the continuative suffixes '-ga' or '-je' may be added.
The personal pronouns relate only to classes 1 and 2. Other pronouns are formed from the class links. These pronouns, as a common Bantu feature, are absolute, in that they stand alone from the rest of the sentence: for nominative accusative and prepositional forms, affixes must be used. The third person pronouns depend on noun class, as explained above.
|Absolute pronoun||English equivalent (subject pronoun, object pronoun)|
These forms may be combined according to certain normal Bantu laws of vowel elision with prefixes such as 'na' (with, and).
There are also several demonstratives, most of which form triples ('this one', 'that one nearby', and 'that one far away')- that is, triple deixis is used.
- Yao reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
- Yao language reference at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
- Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=yao.
- Sanderson, Meredith (1922). A Yao Grammar. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London.
- Ngunga, Armindo (2002). "Elementos de gramática da língua Yao". Imprensa Universitária, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo.