Sukuma, Nyamwezi

1.  Classification / Classification

Sukuma and Nyamwezi, which form a dialect continuum, are placed in the Sukuma-Nyamwezi Group of Bantu (Guthrie F20). (Webbook?)

Ethnologue? lists the classification as: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, F, Sukuma-Nyamwezi (F.20)

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

They are spoken in western Tanzania. (Webbook)

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to Ethnologue:

  • Sukuma: 3,200,000 (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk)
  • Nyamwezi: 1,200,000 (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk)

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

According to Ethnologue:

  • Sukuma (Dialects contiguous with Nyamwezi are intelligible with it.)
    • Kiya
    • Gwe (Kigwe)
  • Nyamwezi
    • Nyanyembe
    • Takama (Garaganza)
    • Mweri (Sumbwa, Konongo, Kiya)

Lexical similarity between Sukuma and Nyamwezi is 84%. Other languages in the same classification have 61% or less lexical similarity with Sukuma and or Nyamwezi: Sumbwa, Nyaturu, Kimbu, Nilamba, Langi

5.  Usage / Utilisation

The Sukuma-Nyamwezi cluster constitutes regional languages in Tanzania. At least one major newspaper, Lumuli, is published in this language (Sukuma dialect) in Tanzania. (Webbook)

Notes from Ethnologue:

  • Language use of both Sukuma and Nyamwezi is described as "vigorous"
  • (Sukuma) A few young people in cities do not speak Sukuma. In the country the young people borrow more Swahili in their Sukuma

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

A standardized Latin-based orthography exists for both. (Webbook)

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

The "Language Museum" site has text samples for:

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Latin fonts without extended ranges (such as commonly used for English) will suffice. [verify!]

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

An English keyboard can be used. [verify!]

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

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

Not aware of any localisation efforts.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue


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


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

7.6  Other / Autre

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

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, (page on "Sukuma/Nyamwezi," )

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Nyamwezi,"

______, "Sukuma,"

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables,"

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,"

Wikipedia, "Nyamwezi language,"

______, "Sukuma language,"

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Categories: Languages, Tanzania