Iraqw Languages

Iraqw Languages


the languages of the Iraqw, Goroa (Gorowa or Fiome), Alagwa, and Burungi (Mbulunge) peoples in northern and central Tanzania. The languages are spoken by approximately 300,000 persons (1967, estimate).

The Iraqw languages, together with Asi (Aramanik) and Ngomvia (in Tanzania), which have not been studied, form the southern subgroup of the Cushitic languages. The complex consonant system includes globalized affricates; uvular q; labialized kw, gw, and xw; a voiceless and globalized lateral; and four Arabic-type laryngeals. There are phonological tones and stress. The inflectional morphology uses suffixes, alternation of vowels and particularly of final stem consonants, and alternations of length and tone. Nouns have two numbers, two forms to express state (general and construct, as in Semitic), and three genders—masculine, feminine, and “plural” (containing nouns that occur only in the plural). The verb is preceded by an analytical marker for person, gender, and number of the subject and object and for tense, mood, and voice. The person, gender, and number of the subject are also expressed in the verb itself (by suffixes and alternation), and verbal stem types (passive, causative, and others) are expressed by suffixes.


Whiteley, W. Studies in Iraqw: An Introduction. Kampala, 1953.
Whiteley, W. A Short Description of Item Categories in Iraqw. Kampala, 1958.


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