Yao, Makonde

Ciyao, Shimakonde

1.  Classification / Classification

These languages, Yao and Makonde, are known as the Yao Group of Bantu (Guthrie P20). (Webbook)

Ethnologue lists the classification as: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, P, Yao (P.20)

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

Yao is spoken by the Yao, primarily in southern Malawi but also in southeastern Tanzania and in Mozambique, and Makonde (spoken by the Makonde, primarily in southeastern Tanzania and in Mozambique). (Webbook)

Yao in Malawi: This language is spoken mostly in the southern part of Malawi in the following districts: Mangochi, Machinga, Balaka, Zomba, parts of Blantyre and a few parts of Dedza in the central region.

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to Ethnologue:

  • Yao
    • 1,000,000 in Malawi (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk)
    • 492,000 in Tanzania (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk)
    • 450,000 in Mozambique (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk)
    • Population total all countries: 1,942,000
  • Makonde
    • 1,140,000 in Tanzania (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk)
    • 233,358 in Mozambique (1997 census)
    • Population total all countries: 1,373,358

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

No thorough Yao dialect survey has come to our attention. Nurse (1980, p. 127) believes that more work needs to be done on the Makonde dialect situation but notes: "Makonde is said to have as dialects:

  • (a) ci-nninma,
  • (b) ci-mihuta,
  • (c) ki-maraba and
  • (d) ki-maviha, but there is some debate about whether the last two are to be considered dialects or languages." (Webbook)

According to Ethnologue:

  • Yao
    • Mangoche [in Malawi]
    • Makale (Cimakale) [in Mozambique]
    • Massaninga (Cimassaninga) [in Mozambique]
    • Machinga [in Mozambique]
    • Mangochi [in Mozambique]
    • Tunduru Yao [in Mozambique]
    • Chikonono (Cikonono) [in Mozambique]
  • Makonde
    • Maviha (in Tanzania the name is a derogatory term for Makonde immigrants from Mozambique who have largely been assimilated into the local Makonde culture) (In Mozambique also: Chimaviha, Kimawiha, Mavia, Mabiha, Mawia)
    • Maraba [in Tanzania]
    • Matambwe (may be closer to Yao than Makonde, and may even be a separate language or a dialect of Mwera) [in Tanzania]
    • Vadonde (Donde, Ndonde) [in Mozambique]
    • Vamwalu (Mwalu) [in Mozambique]
    • Vamwambe (Mwambe) [in Mozambique]
    • Vamakonde (Makonde) [in Mozambique]

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Yao and Makonde are local first languages. (Webbook)

Ethnologue has this comment re usage of Makonde in Tanzania: Vigorous

Literacy rate among Yao speakers in Malawi (according to Ethnologue, accessed 2007):

Kamwendo and Kachiwanda (2002) reported that the Centre for Language Studies in Malawi had recommended collaboration with Mozambique on developing teaching & learning materials for Yao.

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

Yao in Tanzania use a Swahili-based orthography different from Malawi and Mozambique. (Ethnologue)

Kamwendo and Kachiwanda (2002) reported that Yao did not have a standardized orthography in Malawi, but that the Centre for Language Studies in Malawi had done a study with that aim in mind.

The above are Latin-based orthographies.

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

A table at http://www.bisharat.net/A12N/MozaSource.htm gives some information for Ciyao and Shimakonde in Mozambique

The "Language Museum" site has sample texts (but it is not clear what orthographies) for:

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

7.3  Content on computers & internet / Contenu en informatique et sur l'Internet

LILOVE LYA VILAMBO LYA WASA WA VAN (Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Makonde): http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/kde.htm

Mkamulano Wa Ilambo Yoscope Pa Ufulu Wa Chipago Wa Wandu (Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Yao): http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/yao.htm

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

Not aware of any.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue


  • ISO 639-1: -
  • ISO 639-2: yao
  • ISO 639-3: yao


  • ISO 639-1: -
  • ISO 639-2: -
  • ISO 639-3: kde

7.6  Locales / Paramètres régionaux

7.7  Other / Autre

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

Chipo Kanjo, University of Malawi

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

9.  Comments / Remarques

10.  References / Références

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, http://africa.isp.msu.edu/afrlang/hiermenu.html (page on "Yao/Makonde," http://africa.isp.msu.edu/afrlang/Yao_root.html )

Kamwendo, Gregory H., and Stella O. Kachiwanda. 2002. "Enhancing the Role of an African Language: The Case of Ciyao in Malawi." In F.R. Owino, ed. Speaking African. African Languages for Education and Development. Cape Town: CASAS. Pp. 175-188.

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Makonde," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/kde

______, "Yao," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/yao

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables," http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/codes.asp

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2: Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: Alpha-3 codes arranged alphabetically by the English name of language," http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/php/English_list.php

Wikipedia, "Makonde language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makonde_language

______, "Yao language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yao_language

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Categories: Languages, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique