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(also Rwanda, Urunyarwanda, or Kinyarwanda), the language of the Barundi peoples, spoken in Rwanda and the border areas of Burundi, the Republic of Zaire, continental Tanzania, and Uganda. There are more than 4.5 million speakers (1967).

Kirundi is related to the Bantu family. Its phonetic structure is characterized by vowel contraction and elision, realization of Dahl’s law (dissimilation of consonants), and the presence of the interdental consonants voiced [ð] and voiceless [θ]. Tones are present and perform distinctive functions. Kirundi grammatical structure is characterized by the existence of 19 nominal classes. Prefixes are disyllabic. In addition to the three usual locative classes in Bantu languages, Kirundi has a fourth locative class, with the prefix e-.


Schumacher, P. P. “La phonétique du Kinyarwanda.” Anthropos, 1921–22, vols. 16–17; 1923–24, vols. 18–19; 1929, vol. 24; 1931, vol. 26.
Doke, C. M. Bantu: Modern Grammatical, Phonetical and Lexicographical Studies Since 1860. London, 1945.