Gusii language

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Native toKenya
RegionWestern Kenya, Kisii County & Nyamira County
Native speakers
2.2 million (2009 census)[1]
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 Kisii or Ekegusii) is a Bantu language spoken in Kisii and Nyamira counties in western Kenya, whose headquarters is Kisii town, (between the Kavirondo Gulf of Lake Victoria and the border with Tanzania). It is spoken by the Gusii people, numbering about 2.0 million (SIL/Ethnologue 1994). It is part of the Niger-Congo language family.



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:


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.
  • 1960 The tense system of Gusii. Kampala: East African Institute of Social Research.
  • 1974 Language in Kenya. Nairobi: Oxford University Press.

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gusii at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Gusii". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online

External links[edit]