The languages swahilis are a group of language bantoue of the East Africa which are the fruit of an interbreeding of African languages and Arab. They have common characteristics and especially a common vocabulary which allows one their speakers to be rendered comprehensible various speakers of grouping of language. The most used and popular of these languages is the Kiswahili.
See also: Culture swahili
The place of the appearance of the language-ancestor of the languages swahilies, the proto-swahili, is not clearly identified. The proto-swahili would have been born in the old town of perhaps arising Ngozi with certain oral traditions making state from a mysterious empire from Ozi in the archipelago from Lamu. The Kingozi, literally “like leather”, was in addition a literary dialect aiming to the archaism and very in vogue to XVIIIe and XIXe centuries in the writing of poetries in language swahilie written with the Arabic alphabet. Another localization is proposed by other historians for the proto-swahili, it is the town of Shungwaya, close to the current border somalo-Kenyan. We are always in waiting of archaeological excavations which would come in support of a thesis or from another. Common point with the two localizations suggested for the origin of the swahili: We are always in the same area which includes/understands the coast in the south of current Somalia and the cöte in the north of current Kenya, as well as different the islands contiguous to this coastal strip. The term would come from the plural of the Arab word the Sahel (ساحل): sawahil (سواحل) which means “coast” or “border”, the I final being only one suffix used by these languages to make the speech more fluid.
The first written indices of the existence of speeches swahilis are old. the Tour of the sea Érythrée , a document of the 2nd century specifies that the merchants who visited at the same time the East Africa and the south-east of the spoken Arabic peninsula the same language and contracted marriages there. This does not exclude that the speeches swahilis, or the proto-swahili in a still undifferentiated state, existed before this testimony.
The Moslem tradesmen of the coast diffused the language swahilie towards the interior of the continent, along the commercial tracks and slave where it was used as Common language. During centuries, it diversified according to the countries and in the various islands off the Kenyan and Tanzanian coasts. Between the 15th century and the 17th century, good number of dialect swahili incorporated Portuguese words. These multiple languages are then, on the continent, only seldom native tongues (1% in Tanzania in the years 1950), but are largely used as a common languages, to trade or travel.
DiffusionIt is at the 19th century that the practice of these languages largely moved towards the interior with the Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo-Kinshasa, Central Africa and Mozambique. The missionaries made use of it for précher. The colonial authorities of the continent starting from 1930, via the Committee on the territorial language , then sought to standardize these languages. The standardization continued to be carried out to produce the swahili and to end up imposing itself like vernacular language, then like official language in many countries.
The swahili has had a literature written for several centuries (at the origin in Arab characters, since the end of the 19th century in Latin characters). Poems written in the archipelago of Lamu probably date from the middle of the XVIIe century, but we let us have only later copies of them. Thus the oldest original manuscripts written in swahili go back to 1711, it acts of letters written with Kilwa and preserved in the files of the Portuguese empire (Historical Archives off Goa, India).
EvolutionsMore recently certain dialects were métissés again with other African or European languages. These languages resulting from the culture swahilie thus evolve/move differently:
- the Kiswahili by absorbing English and Arab vocabualire, but a also little German. Arvi Hurskainen proposes a study of the loanwords in a broad selection of texts swahili of various times and various natures. The study makes it possible to reduce the total impact of Arabic and to note a light increase in the total impact of English. The other dialects swahili of Tanzania and the Kenya disappear with the profit from this swahili standardized.
- Sheng of the Kenya (métissé of Kikuyu and English);
- Swahili of the Congo-Kinshasa;
- Comorian languages would have been different from the swahili of Zanzibar at the 11th century. the distinction between the languages of the islands of the Tanzanian coast and the languages Comorian was really identified only at the beginning of this century. Today the difference is accentuated because these languages absorb French formulations and vocabulary. It should be noted for example that the majority of the Comorian speakers know only the first ten figures in swahili.
CharacteristicsIn their structure and their vocabulary, the dialects swahilis are different from the languages bantoues but share with these last more common points than with their other source languages, especially the Arab and a little Persan and Indian language. One estimates at 40% the share of the words of Arab origin in these languages. However the linguists admit that the influence of the Arab lexicon is relatively recent, the essence of the contribution dating from the end from the modern time and the XIXe century.
The swahilis, like the languages bantoues, use classes of Nom; however one counts six or seven classes for at the same time the singular names and the plural names, for the infinitive verbs whereas the languages bantoues contain 22 traditionally of them.
The verbs consist of roots and with the addition of suffix and prefix which replaces the system with conjugation of other languages like French.
DialectsThe Kiunguja, the dialect swahili of Zanzibar is the base of the Kiswahili, official language of many countries of East Africa. In fact the swahili gathers more than one about fifty dialects:
- Kiunguja , spoken with Zanzibar and its surroundings ( Kiunguja drift of Unguja , the principal island).
- Kimrima , spoken around Pangani, Vanga, Dar Es Salaam, Rufiji, Maffia.
- Kimgao , spoken around the District about Kilwa and in the south.
- Kipemba , spoken with Pemba.
- Kimvita , spoken around Mombasa; historically the most important dialect after the kiunguja.
- Kiamu , spoken around Lamu.
- Kingwana , or “Swahili de Copperbelt”, spoken in the Republic about Congo, and more particularly in the south.
- Kingozi , spoken in the old town of “Ngozi” and can be the first of the swahilis.
- Shikomor , languages of the the Comoros or Shikomori. Certain phonetic and semantic characteristics, and a somewhat different verbal syntax which do not allow complete intercommunication, make the specificity of the Comorian languages. They remain relatively close, in spite of the very strong influence of French:
- Kimwani , spoken in the island about Kerimba and in north about the Mozambique.
- Chimwiini , spoken with Barawa, in the southern code is Somalia.
- Sheng , a slang swahili/English spoken by cetaines parts of the population in the area of Nairobi.
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