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Swahali

Swahili - African Languages

Swahili, also known as Kiswahili, is a Bantu language and the first language of the Swahili people. It is a lingua franca of the African Great Lakes region and other parts of Southeast Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The closely related Comorian language, spoken in the Comoros Islands, is sometimes considered a dialect. Although only around twenty to forty million people speak Swahili as their first language, it is used as a lingua franca in much of Southeast Africa. Estimates of the total number of Swahili speakers vary widely, from 60 million to over 150 million. Swahili serves as a national language of four nations: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Shikomor, the official language in Comoros and also spoken in Mayotte (Shimaore), is related to Swahili. Swahili is also one of the working languages of the African Union and one of the official languages of the East African Community. Swahili is traditionally regarded as being the language of coastal areas of Tanzania and Kenya. It was formalized after independence by presidents of the African Great Lakes region but first spoken by natives of the coastal mainland. Swahili is currently written in a slightly defective alphabet using the Latin script; the defectiveness comes in that it does not distinguish aspirated consonants, but in some dialects, pronunciation does not distinguish them anyway. In common with all other Bantu languages, Swahili grammar arranges nouns into a number of classes. The ancestral system had 22 classes (counting singular and plural separately, according to the Meinhof convention), with most Bantu languages sharing at least ten. Swahili employs sixteen: six classes that usually indicate singular nouns, five classes that usually indicate plural nouns, a class for abstract nouns, a class for verbal infinitives used as nouns and three classes to indicate location. Swahili verbs consist of a root and a number of affixes (mostly prefixes) that can be attached to express grammatical persons, tense, and subordinate clauses, which require a conjunction in languages such as English. Modern standard Swahili is based on Kiunguja, the dialect spoken in Zanzibar Town, but there are numerous dialects of Swahili, some of which are mutually unintelligible.

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