Mbugu language

  (Redirected from Mbugu)

Maʼa is a Bantu language of Tanzania.

Native toTanzania
RegionUsambara Mountains
Ethnicity32,000 (1987)[1]
Native speakers
(7,000 cited 1997)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
Native toTanzania
RegionUsambara Mountains
Ethnicity32,000 (1987)[1]
Native speakers
(7,000 cited 1997)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3mhd

The Mbugu people speak two divergent registers, which have been treated as separate languages by some authorities (e.g. Tucker and Bryan): Mbugu or "Normal Mbugu" (autonym kiMbugu) is purely Bantu, with vocabulary closely related to Pare, while Maʼa or "Inner Mbugu" (autonym kiMaʼa) consists of an inherited Cushitic vocabulary with Bantu morphology similar to that of Shambala and Pare. They share a grammar, to the point that their syntax is identical and a passage in one can be translated to the other simply by changing the content words.[4]

The Cushitic element was identified as South Cushitic by Ehret. However, Kießling (2001) notes a large East Cushitic admixture.[5] Mous presents the Cushitic element as a register of a Bantu language, and identifies it as largely East Cushitic rather than South Cushitic.[6]



Normal Mbugu distinguishes 29 consonants. Inner Mbugu distinguishes an additional four: /ʔ ɬ x ŋ̊x/, for a total of 33. The table below displays the consonants of Mbugu in IPA format, along with Mous' (1995) practical orthography in angle brackets where it differs from IPA.

Table of Mbugu consonants
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
central lateral
Nasal m n ɲ ⟨ny⟩ ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t c ⟨ch⟩ k ʔ ⟨'⟩[a]
implosive b d ɟ ⟨j⟩ g
voiceless ᵐ̥p ⟨mhp⟩ ⁿ̥t ⟨nht⟩ ᵑ̊k ⟨nhk⟩
voiced ᵐb ⟨mb⟩ ⁿd ⟨nd⟩ ᵑɡ ⟨ng⟩
Fricative voiceless f s ɬ ⟨hl⟩[a] ç ⟨sh⟩ x[a] h
voiced v z ɣ ⟨gh⟩
prenasalized ᵑ̊x ⟨nhx⟩[a]
Sonorant r l j ⟨y⟩ w
  1. ^ a b c d Only occurring in Inner Mbugu


Both registers of Mbugu distinguish five vowels.

Front Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a


Three tones are distinguished in Mbugu: high, low, and falling. Low tone is default (unmarked). High tone is represented with an acute accent ⟨á⟩, while falling tone is represented with the sequence ⟨áa⟩.


  1. ^ a b Mbugu language at Ethnologue (14th ed., 2000).
  2. ^ a b Maʼa at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  4. ^ Mous, Maarten (2003). The Making of a Mixed Language: the case of Maʼa/Mbugu. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins Pub. Co.
  5. ^ Roland Kießling, "South Cushitic links to East Cushitic", in Zaborski ed, 2001, New Data and New Methods in Afroasiatic Linguistics
  6. ^ Blench, 2006, Classification of Afroasiatic, ms.

Further readingEdit

  • Tosco, Mauro. 2000. 'Cushitic Overview.' Journal of Ethiopian Studies 33(2):87-121.