Gusii language

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Native toKenya
RegionNyanza Kenya, Kisii County & Nyamira County, Southern Rift Valley, parts of Kericho County & Bomet County
Native speakers
2.2 million (2009 census)[1]
0.5 million
Latin, Arabic
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. The Bunchari dialect of the Ekegusii is also spoken among the Kuria as the Kuria language and among the Suba people (Tanzania) and some other groups like the Suna-Girango and Simbete as well as other small splinter groups from Abagusii and Kuria in Migori County and Homa Bay County as Egesuba.



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
Near-close 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.

Phonetic inventory of consonants in Gusii
bilabial alveo-palatal palatal velar
plosive p   b t c (c) k   ɡ
fricative   s    
affricate     cç (c)  
nasal m n ɲ (ny) ŋ (ng')
trill   r    
approximant w   j (y)  

The following morphophonological alternations occur:

  • n+r = nd
  • n+b = mb
  • n+g = ŋg
  • n+k = ŋk
  • n+m = m:

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
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
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


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.

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)
  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}}: External link in |location= (help)CS1 maint: ignored ISBN errors (link) CS1 maint: location (link)

External links[edit]