Kamba language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Native toKenya, Tanzania
RegionMachakos, Kitui, Makueni, and Shimba Hills
Native speakers
4.6 million (2019 census)[1]
600,000 L2 speakers
  • Masaku
  • Mumoni
  • North Kitui
  • South Kitui
Language codes
ISO 639-2kam
ISO 639-3Either:
kam – Kamba
dhs – Dhaiso (Thaisu)

Kamba/ˈkæmbə/,[3] or Kikamba, is a Bantu language spoken by millions of Kamba people, primarily in Kenya, as well as thousands of people in Uganda, Tanzania, and elsewhere. In Kenya, Kamba is generally spoken in four counties: Machakos, Kitui, Makueni, and Kwale. The Machakos dialect is considered the standard variety and has been used in translation. The other major dialect is Kitui.[4]

Kamba has lexical similarities to other Bantu languages such as Kikuyu, Meru, and Embu.

Dance song. Male solo. Akamba. Machakos. 1911–12.
Dance song. Machakos. Akamba. 1911-12

The Swedish National Museums of World Culture holds field recordings of kamba language made by Swedish ethnographer Gerhard Lindblom in 1911–12.[5] Lindblom used phonograph cylinders to record songs along with other means of documentation in writing and photography. He also gathered objects, and later presented his work in The Akamba in British East Africa (1916).



Front Central Back
Close i iː u uː
Close-mid e eː o oː
Open-mid ɛ ɛː ɔ ɔː
Open a aː


Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar
Stop (b) t (d) k (ɡ)
Affricate tʃ (dʒ)
Fricative β ð s (z)
Nasal m n ŋ
Lateral l
Approximant labial ɥ w
central (ð̞) j
  • /tʃ/ occurs as a result of palatalization among /k/ before /j/.
  • In post-nasal positions, sounds /t, k, s, tʃ/ then become voiced as [d, ɡ, z, dʒ]. The voiced fricative /β/ then becomes a voiced stop [b] in post-nasal position.
  • The palatal glide sound /j/ is typically articulated to the front of the mouth, so that is interdental as [ð̞] or alveolo-palatal as [j̟]. When preceding a consonant however, it is always heard as a regular palatal glide [j].[6]


  1. ^ Kamba at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Dhaiso (Thaisu) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  3. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. ^ Yasutoshi Yukawa (1984-08-25). "On the Nature of the Accent of Kamba Nouns". Senri Ethnological Studies. 15: 131.
  5. ^ "Historier från samlingarna | Newly digitized 100-year-old recordings bring African song and dance to life". samlingar.varldskulturmuseerna.se. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  6. ^ Roberts-Kohno, Rosalind R. (2000). Kikamba Phonology and Morphology. Ann Arbor: UMI.


  • Mwau, John Harun (2006). Kikamba Dictionary: Kikamba-English, Kikamba-Kikamba, English-Kikamba. ISBN 9966-773-09-6.

External links[edit]