Mwani language

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The Mwani language (Kimwani [kiˈmwani]) is a Bantu language spoken on the coast of the Cabo Delgado Province of Mozambique, including the Quirimbas Islands. Although it shares high lexical similarity (60%) with Swahili, it is not intelligible with it. It is spoken by around 120,000 people (including 20,000 who use it as their second language). Speakers of Kimwani also use Portuguese, (the official language of Mozambique), Swahili and Makhuwa language. Kiwibo, the dialect of the Island of Ibo is the prestige dialect. Kimwani (sometimes spelled as Quimuane) is also called Mwani (sometimes spelled as: Mwane, Muane) and Ibo. According to Anthony P. Grant:[6] Kimwani of northern Mozambique appears to be the result of imperfect shift towards Swahili several centuries ago by speakers of Makonde, and Arends et al. suggest it might turn out to be a Makonde–Swahili mixed language.[7]

Native toMozambique[1]
Native speakers
100,000 (2006)[2]
2nd language: 20,000[3]
Language codes
ISO 639-3wmw
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.


The Name "Kimwani" comes from the word "Mwani", meaning "beach". The prefix "Ki" means the language of, so "Kimwani" literally means "language of the beach".


Kimwani (similar to Swahili) is unusual among sub-Saharan languages in having lost the feature of lexical tone (with the exception of some verbal paradigms where its use is optional). It does not have the penultimate stress typical of Swahili; it has movable pitch accent. Labialization of consonants (indicated by a [w] following the consonant) and palatalization of r (ry; [rj]) are frequent. Nasalization of vowels occurs only before a nasal consonant n followed by a consonant.


Kimwani has five vowel phonemes: /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, and /u/, that is: its vowels are close to those of Spanish and Latin. It does not have a distinction of closed and open mid vowels typical of Portuguese, French or Italian.

The pronunciation of the phoneme /i/ stands between International Phonetic Alphabet [i] and [e]. Vowels are never reduced, regardless of stress. The vowels are pronounced as follows:

  • /a/ is pronounced like the "a" in start
  • /e/ is pronounced like the "e" in bed
  • /i/ is pronounced like the "y" in happy
  • /o/ is pronounced like the "o" in or
  • /u/ is pronounced like the "u" in Susan.

Kimwani has no diphthongs; in vowel combinations, each vowel is pronounced separately.


Two symbols in a table cell denote the voiceless and voiced consonant, respectively.

Consonants of Kimwani[8]
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosives and
p, b t, d tʃ, dʒ k, g
Fricatives f, v s, z ʃ h
Trill r
Approximants w l j


Kimwani can be spelled in three ways: using orthography similar to Swahili, using a slightly modified spelling system used in Mozambique schools or using a Portuguese-based spelling. Here are the differences:

Kimwani spelling systems differences
Swahili language spelling Modified spelling Portuguese spelling Translation
/tʃ/ chala cala tchala finger
/dʒ/ juwa juwa djua Sun
/k/ kitabu kitabu quitabo book
/ŋ/ ng'ombe ng'ombe ngombe cow
/ɲ/ nyoka nyoka nhoca snake
/s/ fisi fisi fissi hyena
/z/ meza meza mesa table
/ʃ/ kushanga kushanga cuxanga to admire
/w/ wakati wakati uacate time
/j/ kipya kipya quípia new
/i/ sukili sukili suquile sugar
/u/ ufu ufu ufo flour


moja (1), mbili (2), natu (3), n’né (4), tano (5)

sita (6), saba (7), nane (8), kenda (9)

kumi (10), kumi na moja (11),kumi na mbili (12)

Ishirini (20), thelathini (30), arubaini (40), hamsini (50)

sitini (60), sabini (70), themanini (80), tisini (90)

mia (100), mia mbili (200)

Elfu (1000) elfu mbili (2000)


  1. ^ Ethnologue list of countries where Kimwani is spoken
  2. ^ Mwani at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ "Mwani: a language of Mozambique". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (14th ed.). SIL International. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Mwani". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  6. ^ Smith, Norval; Veenstra, Tonjes (2001). Creolization and Contact. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 94. ISBN 90-272-5245-9.
  7. ^ Arends, Muysken, & Smith (1995), Pidgins and Creoles: An Introduction
  8. ^ A sketch of Kimwani by Petzell, Malin
  • Petzell, Malin. A sketch of Kimwani (a minority language of Mozambique); Africa & Asia, #2, pp.  88–110, Göteborg University. 2002. ISSN 1650-2019
  • Namuna ya kufifunda kufyoma na kwandika (Manual de transição, língua Kimwani); SIL & JUWA; Pemba, Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. 2002.
  • Gerdes, Paulus (2008). A Numeração Em Moçambique. ISBN 978-1-4357-2634-5.[self-published source]