Swahili

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Swahili

(swähē`lē) [Arab.,=coast people], name for some of the inhabitants of the Kenya, Tanzania, Somali, and Mozambique coasts, Zanzibar, and E Congo. Descendants of black Africans and Arab traders (who came to the E African coast about A.D. 500), the Swahili do not form a cohesive ethnic group but are loosely united by common economic pursuits (especially trade), by cultural traditions, and particularly by the use of the Swahili languageSwahili language,
member of the Bantu group of African languages (see African languages and Bantu languages). Swahili is spoken by 30 million people, chiefly in Tanzania, Kenya, Congo (Kinshasa), Burundi, and Uganda, and serves as a lingua franca for additional millions in E
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Swahili

 

(also Waswahili), a people of East Africa living mainly on the coasts of Kenya and Tanzania and partly on the coasts of Mozambique, as well as on nearby islands.

The composition of the Swahili is very complex. They include descendants of the aboriginal population of the coastal zone and of the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia. This group intermingled with Indians, Arabs, and Persians who settled in these areas beginning in the first few centuries A.D. The descendants of the aboriginal population also intermingled with members of various tribes who had been brought by the Arabs to the same areas as slaves from the interior of Africa.

The name “Swahili” appeared approximately in the 12th century. It is derived from the Arabic sawahili (“coastal”) and means “coast dwellers.” In the Middle Ages the Swahili constituted the ethnic base of such East African city-states as Kilwa, Pate, and Malindi, which lost their independence in the 19th century. The total number of Swahili is not known, since persons of other nationalities who speak Swahili often call themselves Swahili. Approximately 50 million people are estimated to speak or understand Swahili.

The basic occupation of the Swahili is farming. Many of them live in cities, engaging in crafts and trade or working in industry. The majority of the Swahili are Muslims.

REFERENCES

Narody Afriki. Moscow, 1954.
Misiugin, V. M. “Suakhiliiskaia khronika srednevekovogo gosu-sarstva Pate.” In the collection Africana. (Tr. In-ta elnografii: Novaia seriia, vol. 90.) Moscow-Leningrad, 1966.

Swahili

 

(also Kiswahili), the official language of Tanzania and Kenya. It is also widespread in Uganda, in the southern part of the republic of Somalia, in eastern Zaïre, and in northern Mozambique. Swahili is the native language of about 50 million people (1970, estimate).

Swahili is spoken in the eastern part of the area dominated by the Bantu languages. It has about 20 dialects, including Kim vita, spoken in Mombasa; Kiamu, spoken in Lamu; Kiunguja (the basis of contemporary standard Swahili), spoken in Zanzibar; and Kingwana, spoken in Zaïre.

The phonetic and phonological features of Swahili include a system of five unchanging vowels and a consonant system complicated by the three consonants θ, ð, and γ, which are encountered only in roots of Arabic origin. In Swahili, the vowel and consonant alternation typical of the Bantu languages is morpho-phono-logical in nature.

The morphological features of Swahili include 12 concordant classes of words with monosyllabic prefixes. The locative is expressed by the suffix -ni, which changes the concordant pattern of a word to correspond to the meaning being expressed. There is an animate and an inanimate category. The verb system is considerably reduced in comparison to the other Bantu languages. The word order is subject-predicate-object; the dependent member precedes the governing member. The vocabulary contains a very large number of Arabic and English borrowings.

There is an abundant Swahili literature with ancient traditions. Periodicals are published in Swahili, and radio broadcasts are conducted in the language.

REFERENCES

Miachina, E. N. lazyk suakhili. Moscow, 1960.
Ashton, E. O. Swahili Grammar, Including Intonation. London, 1964.
Loogman, A. Swahili Grammar and Syntax. Louvain (Belgium), 1965.
Johnson, F. A Standard English-Swahili Dictionary. London, 1960.
Johnson, F. A Standard Swahili-English Dictionary. London, 1955.

N. V. OKHOTINA

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Swahili

1. a language of E Africa that is an official language of Kenya and Tanzania and is widely used as a lingua franca throughout E and central Africa. It is a member of the Bantu group of the Niger-Congo family, originally spoken in Zanzibar, and has a large number of loan words taken from Arabic and other languages
2. a member of a people speaking this language, living chiefly in Zanzibar
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Thus it is believed that the period from 1100 to 1500 is the golden age of the Waswahili civilization where patriarchal states controlled trade, politics, culture and literature.
And like in many other patriarchal societies, the age old patriarchal system of the Waswahili produced literary works loaded with male ideologies that perpetuated masculinities through time.
For the Waswahili, poetry is a way of life, a communicative tool that expresses their aspirations and their vision; and history attest that before foreigners from across the Indian Ocean (Arabs, Persians, Chinese, Indians) came to the east coast of Africa, the Waswahili were a matriarchal society.
Hence, the basic micro-political unit became the patrilineal clan, and being a patriarchal community, the poetry of the Waswahili of the 19th century was in the possession of men from the ruling class who perpetuated male power through a patriarchal symbolic order.
Islam as a religion is a significant aspect of the Waswahili culture, and thus many Islamic concepts are found in their literature, especially those based on law and doctrine.
Among the Waswahili, he is a legendary figure remembered in their oral traditions and whose praises are sung in ceremonial occasions.
In looking at the historical landscape of the Waswahili of Kenya, one cannot fail to notice the dominant forms of masculinity perpetuated by the social and political systems established in different historical periods.
Continuing, the Waswahili community, just like many other world communities, can be discussed under what is known as the sex-role theory where people learn from the established social institutions to behave in ways that are socially acceptable and appropriate to their sex.
And for many generations, the Waswahili literature has been used to maintain the patriarchal symbolic order and strengthen manifestations of masculinities in areas like class and sexual orientations.
Hence, an analysis of the Waswahili poetry can show this trend where masculinity has had multiple meanings that have evolved through time.
In Kiswahili there is a saying: 'Mume bila kazi si mume' meaning 'A man without a job is no man at all.' Sometimes the saying also includes, 'Mume ni kazi' which simply means, 'A man is his job.' Among the Waswahili, like in many societies, a man is the bread winner and provider for his family.
And it is also worth noting that in the Waswahili community, like in many other world communities, the above is the case when patriarchy has been able to perpetuate itself through women, the very group that it oppresses.