Gusii language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Native toKenya
RegionNyanza Kenya, Kisii County & Nyamira County, Southern Rift Valley, parts of Kericho County & Bomet County
Native speakers
L1: 2.2 million (2009 census)[1]
L2: 500,000
  • Ekegusii Proper
  • Girango Maate
Latin (after European contact)
Language codes
ISO 639-3guz
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The Gusii language (also known as Ekegusii) is a Bantu language spoken in Kisii and Nyamira counties in Nyanza Kenya, whose headquarters is Kisii Town, (between the Kavirondo Gulf of Lake Victoria and the border with Tanzania). It is spoken natively by 2.2 million people (as of 2009), mostly among the Abagusii. Ekegusii has only two dialects: The Rogoro and Maate dialects. Phonologically they differ in the articulation of /t/. Most of the variations existing between the two dialects are lexical. The two dialects can refer to the same object or thing using different terms. An example of this is the word for cat. While one dialect calls a cat ekemoni, the other calls it ekebusi. Another illustrating example can be found in the word for sandals. While the Rogoro word for sandals is chidiripasi, the Maate dialect word is chitaratara. Many more lexical differences manifest in the language. The Maate dialect is spoken in Tabaka and Bogirango. Most of the other regions use the Rogoro dialect, which is also the standard dialect of Ekegusii.



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
Close-mid 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.

Phonemic inventory of consonants in Gusii
labial alveolar palatal velar
plosive   t   k  
fricative β s   ɣ
nasal m n ɲ ŋ
tap   ɾ    
approximant w   j  
Phonetic inventory of consonants in Gusii
labial alveolar palatal velar
plosive p   b t   d k   ɡ
fricative β s   ɣ
nasal m n ɲ ŋ
tap   ɾ    
approximant w   j  

The following morphophonological alternations occur:

  • n+r = [ⁿd]
  • n+b = [ᵐb]
  • n+g = [ᵑɡ]
  • n+k = [ᵑk]
  • n+c = [ⁿtʃ]
  • n+s = [ⁿs]
  • n+m = [mː]

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.

Ekegusii language Alphabet[edit]

Ekegusii alphabet (Kenya)[3][4][5]
Ekegusii Alphabet A B C D E Ë G H I K M N O Ö R S T U W Y ei ie io oi - - - - -
Ekegusii Consonants Mb Bw mbw Ch Nch Chw Nchw Nd Ndw Ng Gw Ngw Ng' Ng'w Ny Nyw Nk Kw Nkw Mw Nw Rw Ns Sw Nsw Nt Tw Ntw Yw

Ekegusii Noun Classes[edit]

Samples 1[edit]

Ekegusii Noun Class
Class Singular Gloss Plural Gloss
1 omo-aba omonto person/human abanto people/humans
2 omo-eme omotwe head emetwe head
3 e-ch eng'ombe cow chiombe cows
4 ege-ebi egekombe cup ebikombe cups
5 ri-ama ritunda fruit amatunda fruits
6 o-o obwoba cowardness obwoba cowardness
7 e-e ekegusii ekegusii ----------- -----------
8 ama-ama amabere milk amabere milk
9 omo-i-seke


girl aba-i-seke girls
10 -------------- ------------

Ekegusii Numeral System[edit]

Sample 2[edit]

Ekegusii Numeral System
Number Reading Meaning Number Reading Meaning
1 eyemo 1 11 ikomi nemo 10+1
2 ibere 2 12 ikomi na ibere 10+2
3 isato 3 13 ikomi na isato 10+3
4 inye 4 14 ikomi nainye 10+4
5 isano 5 15 ikomi na isano 10+5
6 isano nemo 5+1 16 ikomi na isano nemo 10+5+1
7 isano na ibere 5+2 17 ikomi na isano na ibere 10+5+2
8 isano na isato 5+3 18 ikomi na isano na isato 10+5+3
9 kianda 9 19 ikomi na kianda 10+9
10 ikomi 10 20 emerongo ebere 20

Sample phrases[edit]

English Ekegusii
Good Morning Bwakire buya
Good night Obotuko obuya
Head omotwe
Ear ogoto
Water amache
evening magoroba
grandfather sokoro
to know komanya
to milk gokama
donkey etigere
Earth ense
Dwell menya
Homeland inka
Today rero
Sun risase
Dog esese
Stand -tenena
Know -manya
See -rora
Upside/Northern/Hillside rogoro
Lake/Sea enyancha
Desert eroro
Fighter omorwani
Roll Over -garagara
Milk amabere
She goat esibeni
Cowdung esike
Lady omosubati
Harvest gesa
Cry rera
Walk tara


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.

Nash, Carlos M.[edit]

  • 2011. Tone in Ekegusii: A Description of Nominal And Verbal Tonology. University of California, Santa Barbara.

Nyauncho, Osinde K.[edit]

  • 1988. Ekegusii morphophonology: an analysis of the major consonantal processes. University of Nairobi.

Whiteley, Wilfred H.

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gusii at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019) closed access
  2. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  3. ^ Rhonda L. Hartell, ed. 1993. The Alphabets of Africa. Dakar: UNESCO and Summer Institute of Linguistics
  4. ^ Nyauma, Shem (2014). "A Phonological Reconstruction Of Ekegusii And Egekuria Nouns: A Comparative Analysis" (PDF). Masters Thesis, University of Nairobi.
  5. ^ Hartell, Rhonda, ed. (1993). Alphabets of Africa. UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar (BREDA). p. 186. ISBN 92-9091-020-3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: ignored ISBN errors (link)

External links[edit]