Comorian languages

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Native toComoros and Mayotte
RegionThroughout Comoros and Mayotte; also in Madagascar and Réunion
Native speakers
800,000 in Comoros[1] and 300,000 in Mayotte[2][3] (2011 and 2007)
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
zdj – Ngazidja dialect
wni – Ndzwani (Anjouani) dialect
swb – Maore dialect
wlc – Mwali dialect

Comorian (Shikomori, or Shimasiwa, the "language of islands") is the name given to a group of four Bantu languages spoken in the Comoro Islands, an archipelago in the southwestern Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar. It is named as one of the official languages of the Union of the Comoros in the Comorian constitution. Shimaore, one of the languages, is spoken on the disputed island of Mayotte, a French department claimed by Comoros.

Like Swahili, the Comorian languages are Sabaki languages, part of the Bantu language family. Each island has its own language, and the four are conventionally divided into two groups: the eastern group is composed of Shindzuani (spoken on Ndzuani) and Shimaore (Mayotte), while the western group is composed of Shimwali (Mwali) and Shingazija (Ngazidja). Although the languages of different groups are not usually mutually intelligible, only sharing about 80% of their lexicon, there is mutual intelligibility between the languages within each group, suggesting that Shikomori should be considered as two language groups, each including two languages, rather than four distinct languages.[5]

Historically, the language was written in the Arabic-based Ajami script. The French colonial administration introduced the Latin script, of which a modified version was officially decreed in 2009.[6] Many Comorians now use the Latin script when writing the Comorian language although the Ajami script is still widely used, especially by women.[citation needed]

It is the language of Umodja wa Masiwa, the national anthem.


The consonants and vowels in the Comorian languages:


Vowels [7][8]
Front Central Back
Close i ĩ u ũ
Mid e o
Open a ã


Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Palato-
Palatal Retroflex Velar Glottal
plain sibilant
Nasal m n ɲ
voiceless p t t͡s t͡ʃ ʈ k
voiced (b) (d) d͡z d͡ʒ ɖ ɡ
vl. prenasal ᵐp ⁿt ⁿt͡s ⁿt͡ʃ ᶯʈ ᵑk
vd. prenasal (ᵐb) (ⁿd) ⁿd͡z ⁿd͡ʒ ᶯɖ ᵑɡ
implosive ɓ ɗ
impl. prenasal ᵐɓ ⁿɗ
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ x h
voiced β v ð z ʒ ɣ
Approximant w l j
Trill r

The consonants mb, nd, b, d are phonetically recognized as ranging from [ᵐɓ~ᵐb], [ⁿɗ~ⁿd], [ɓ~b], [ɗ~d].


  1. ^ "Udzima wa Komori". Université Laval, 2325, rue de l'Université. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  2. ^ Daniel Barreteau. "Premiers résultats d'une enquête sociolinguistique auprès des élèves de CM2 de Mayotte" (PDF) (in French). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-17.
  3. ^ "Population of Mayotte". INSEE.
  4. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  5. ^ Breslar, 1981; Ahmed-Chamanga, 2010
  6. ^ Ahmed-Chamanga, 2010
  7. ^ a b Ahmed-Chamanga (1992).
  8. ^ a b Lafon (1991).

Further reading[edit]

  • Ahmed-Chamanga, Mohamed. (1992) Lexique Comorien (shindzuani) – Français. Paris: L'Harmattan.
  • Ahmed-Chamanga, Mohamed. (1997) Dictionnaire français-comorien (dialecte Shindzuani). Paris: L'Harmattan.
  • Ahmed-Chamanga, Mohamed. (2010) Introduction à la grammaire structurale du comorien. Moroni: Komedit. 2 vols.
  • Breslar, Jon. (1981) An Ethnography of the Mahorais (Mayotte, Comoro Islands). Thesis presented at University of Pittsburgh.
  • Djohar, Abdou. (2014) Approche contrastive franco-comorienne: les séquences figées à caractère adjectival. Université Paris-Nord.
  • Johansen, Aimee. A History of Comorian Linguistics. in John M. Mugane (ed.), Linguistic Typology and Representation of African Languages. Africa World Press. Trenton, New Jersey.
  • Lafon, Michel. (1991) Lexique Français-Comorien (Shingazidja). Paris: L'Harmattan.
  • Rey, Veronique. (1994) Première approche du mwali. Africana Linguistica XI. Tervuren: MRAC.

External links[edit]