Masaba language

Masaba (Lumasaaba), sometimes known as Gisu (Lugisu) after one of its dialects, is a Bantu language spoken by more than two million people in East Africa. The Gisu dialect in eastern Uganda is mutually intelligible with Bukusu, spoken by ethnic Luhya in western Kenya. Masaba is the local name of Mount Elgon and the name of the son of the ancestor of the Gisu tribe. Like other Bantu languages, Lumasaba nouns are divided into several sets of noun classes. These are similar to the genders in Germanic and Romance languages, except that instead of the usual two or three, there are around eighteen different noun classes. The language has a quite complex verb morphology.

Native toUganda
RegionEastern, south of the Kupsabiny, Bugisu Province
EthnicityMasaba, Luhya
Native speakers
2.7 million (2002 & 2009 censuses)[1]
  • Gisu
  • Kisu
  • Bukusu
  • Syan
  • Tachoni
  • Dadiri
  • Buya
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
myx – Masaba (Gisu, Kisu, Dadiri, Buya)
bxk – Bukusu (Tachoni)
lts – Tachoni
Glottologmasa1299  Masaaba
buku1249  Bukusu
tach1242  Tachoni


Varieties of Masaba are as follows:[3]

  • Gisu (Lugisu)
  • Kisu
  • Bukusu (Lubukusu; ethnic Luhya)
  • Syan
  • Tachoni (Lutachoni; ethnic Luhya)
  • Dadiri (Ludadiri)
  • Buya (Lubuya)

Dadiri is spoken in the north, Gisu in the center, and Buya in the center and south of Masaba territory in Uganda. Bukusu is spoken in Kenya, separated from ethnic Masaba by Nilotic languages on the border.


See Bukusu dialect for details of one variety of Masaba.


Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d g
Fricative voiceless f s
voiced β z
Approximant l j


Masaba has a basic 5-vowel system consisting of /i, e, a, o, u/.


  1. ^ Masaba (Gisu, Kisu, Dadiri, Buya) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Bukusu (Tachoni) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Tachoni at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  3. ^ Maho (2009)


  • Brown, Gillian (1972) Phonological Rules and Dialectal Variation: A study of the phonology of Lumasaaba ISBN 0-521-08485-7

External linksEdit