Zigula language

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Native toTanzania,
EthnicityZigula people
Native speakers
(380,000 cited 1993–2006)[1]
  • Mushunguli
  • Zigula
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
ziw – Zigula
xma – Mushunguli
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Zigula (Zigua, Chizigua) is a Bantu language of Tanzania, where it is known as Mushunguli (Mushungulu).[3] It is best known for the Mushunguli dialect.


Mushunguli is spoken by about 23,000 people from the Bantu ethnic minority of southern Somalia, in Jamaame, Kismayo, Mogadishu, and the Jubba River valley.[4]

It shows affinities with other adjacent Bantu varieties. In particular, Mushunguli shares strong lexical and grammatical similarities with the language of the Zigua people who inhabit Tanzania, one of the areas in south-eastern Africa where many Bantu in Somalia are known to have been captured from as slaves during the 19th century.[5] Ethnologue notes that the Mushunguli in Tanzania are the Wazegua.[4]

Many Mushunguli Bantu men also speak as working languages the Afro-Asiatic Maay and Somali languages of their Somali neighbors.[4]


There is no official or traditional orthography for Mushunguli. However, spelling practices from related Bantu languages can easily be adopted to render the language with minimal phonetic diacritics.


Front Back
High ɪ ʊ
Mid ɛ ɔ
Open a


Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Stop plain p t t͡ʃ k
Implosive ɓ ɗ ʄ ɠ
Fricative voiceless f θ ~ s ʃ
voiced v ð ~ z ɦ
Approximant w l j
Flap ɾ

The fricatives [z] and [s] freely vary with [ð] and [θ], respectively.


Vowel length is not distinctive, but phonetic length is especially associated with falling tones as in chîga 'leg'. The tone system is similar to that of Tanzanian Zigua.[6][7]


  1. ^ Zigula at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Mushunguli at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  3. ^ Declich, Francesca. 1995. "Gendered Narratives," History, and Identity: Two Centuries along the Juba River among the Zigula and Shanbara. History in Africa 22: 93-122.
  4. ^ a b c Ethnologue – Mushungulu
  5. ^ Refugee Reports November 2002 Volume 23, Number 8 Archived November 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Kenstowicz, Michael. 1989. Tone and accent in Kizigua – a Bantu language. in P.M. Bertinetto & M. Loporcaro (eds). Certamem phonologicum: papers from the 1987 Cortona Phonology Meeting, pp. 177-188. Torino: Rosenberg and Sellier.
  7. ^ Kenstowicz, Michael. & Charles Kisseberth. 1990. Chizigula tonology: the word and beyond. In S. Inkelas & D. Zec(eds) The phonology-syntax connection, pp. 163-194. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hout, Katherine, and Eric Bakovic. "To fuse or not to fuse: Approaches to exceptionality in Mushunguli (Somali Chizigula)." (2014).
  • MacSaveny, Erin, and Erin MacSaveny. "Verbal tone in Chizigula." Occasional Papers in Applied Linguistics 5 (2009).
  • Temkin Martinez, Michal, and Haley K. Boone. "On the presence of voiceless nasalization in apparently effaced Somali Chizigula prenasalized stops." The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 139.4 (2016): 2218-2218.

External links[edit]