Swahili (also Kiswahili) is an agglutinative Bantu language widely spoken in
Swahili is the mother tongue of the Swahili people who inhabit a 1500 km
stretch of the East African coast from southern Somalia to northern
Mozambique. There are approximately five million first-language speakers and
fifty million second-language speakers. Swahili has become a lingua franca
for East Africa and surrounding areas.
The traditional centre of the language has been Zanzibar, and Swahili is an
official language of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
The Swahili spoken in Nairobi incorporates significantly more
loanwords than that spoken on the coast, and in Tanzania Swahili is the most
widely used language. The language is also spoken in regions that border
these three countries, such as far northern Malawi and Mozambique, eastern
Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and southern Ethiopia. The
Zanzibar dialect is known as Kiunguja.
Swahili belongs to the Sabaki subgroup of the Northeastern coast Bantu
languages. It is closely related to the Miji Kenda group of languages,
Pokomo, Ngazija etc. Over at least a thousand years of intense and varied
interaction with the Middle East, Arabia, Persia, India and China has given
Swahili a rich infusion of loanwords from a wide assortment of languages.
Swahili verbs consist of a root and a number of affixes (mostly prefixes)
which can be attached to mean express grammatical persons, tense and many
clauses that would require a conjunction in other languages (usually
Since colonial times circa 1870 to 1960 and into the present time Kiunguja,
the Zanzibar dialect of Swahili has become the basis of Standard Swahili as
used in East Africa. Nevertheless Swahili encompasses more than fifteen