The description given here is of the Chizigula language of refugees from Somalia, who fled Somalia in the 1990s during the civil war, went into Kenya and spent over a decade there in refugee camps, and eventually ended up as refugees in a number of cities in the USA, including Boise, Idaho, where we are located. The ancestors of the Chizigula speakers in Somalia were originally brought there as slaves by Arab traders in the 18th century from Tanzania. A few years later they freed themselves, initially wanting to go back to their Zigula territory in Tanzania but then decided to settle down in the Jubba river region of Somalia as farmers. (see: Arbow)


Chizigula (xma) is one of several hundred Bantu languages spoken in SubSaharan Africa. It is in the geographic grouping G311 in east Africa (The G grouping also includes Swahili, a closely related culturally important language used as a lingua franca in many parts of east Africa and as a national language in Kenya and Tanzania (see Maho 2003). Chizigula is also closely related to Kizigula (G31;ziw) spoken by several hundred thousand speakers in Tanzania today. There is no grammar of Chizigula or Kizigula, but there is a dictionary of the Tanzania language: Zigula-English Dictionary (Kisbey 1907). It is obvious from our research over the last six years that Chizigula from Somalia is substantially different today from that of Kizigula of Tanzania. At least 40 to 50% of the words in the 1907 dictionary are completely different from those in our corpus of Chizigula (with 15,540 main entries with grammatical classes and sentence examples of each). In Somalia, Chizigula is also known as Mushungulu, but some Chizigula speakers don’t like the term because it is often used disparangingly by Somalis for Chizigula speakers. The Swahili term Kizigua is used in East Africa in English for both Kizigula of Tanzania and Chizigula of Somalia, and is used by Chizigulas and Kizigulas when speaking English, so we normally use it in our translations of Chizugula example sentences in the dictionary.



Arbow, Mohamed Ramani. Ulosi na Tangu dye Chizigula 'The Language and Tradition of Kizigua'. Unpublished ms., Somalia.


Dayley, Jon P., Mwaliko Mberwa, Michal Temkin-Martinez. 2020. Chizigula of Somalia Dictionary.


Hyman, Larry M. 2003. Segmental Phonology. The Bantu Languages. Pp. 42-58. New York: Routledge.


Katumba, Francis. 2003. Bantu Nominal Morphology. The Bantu Languages. Pp. 103-121. New York: Routledge.


Kensy, Walter Henry. 1907. Zigula-English Dictionary. S.P.C.K.


Maddieson, Ian. 2003. The Sounds of the Bantu Languages. The Bantu Languages. Pp. 15-41. New York: Routledge.


Maho, Jouni. 2003. A Classification of the Bantu Languages: an Update of Gughrie’s Referential System. The Bantu Languages. Pp.639-651. New York: Routledge.


Nurse, Derek. 2003. Aspect and Tense in Bantu Languages.The Bantu Languages. Pp. 90-102. New York: Routledge.


Nurse, Derek and Gerard Philippson. 2003. The Bantu Languages. New York: Routledge.


Nurse, Derek and Gerard Philippson. 2003. Introduction. The Bantu Lanugages. Pp. 1-12. New York: Routledge.


Schadeberg, Tilo C. 2003. Derivation. The Bantu Languages. Pp. 71-89. New York: Routledge.


Werner, Alice. 1919. Introductory Sketch of the Bantu Languages. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.