Swahili is a Bantu language with about 60 million speakers, only about 10% native speakers. The standard is based on Kiunguja, the dialect spoken in Zanzibar town.
Swahili is currently written in a Roman alphabet. The aspirated stops aren't usually distinguished in writing (although some writers use an apostrophe for aspiration). It was previously written in an Arabic script. Musa writes it in the Kana gait.
A final is often pronounced (and written) [ə]. Long (doubled) vowels are written with the Long mark .
There are neither diphthongs, nor nasal vowels, nor tones (unusual for a Bantu language), but stressed vowels (almost always the penultimate vowels) are written high. A lone vowel is preceded by a Break to show hiatus, but not at the beginning of a word.
|p' pʰ||t' tʰ||ch' ʧʰ||k' kʰ|
|p p||t t||ch ʧ||k k|
|b ɓ||d ɗ||j ʄ||g ɠ|
|mb mb||nd nd||nj ɲɟ||ng ŋg|
|m m||n n||r l ɺ||ny ɲ||ng ŋ|
|mv mv||nz nz|
|v v||z z|
|f f||s s||sh ʃ|
Words of Arabic origin may include th dh kh gh /θ ð x γ/, pronounced s z h r by most speakers, but written if pronounced as in Arabic.
Nasals m n ny ng are pronounced as separate syllables when they precede a plosive (thus contrasting them with prenasals), and prenasals are split in one-syllable words. In both cases, Musa writes them as syllabic nasals, using the Nasal sign as a vowel. For example, mtoto would be spelled . Prenasalized consonants are spelled with the prenasal prefix .
For most speakers, r and l have merged, and are pronounced as a lateral flap. When you want to write the difference, use . For all speakers, r and l are pronounced as d after a nasal, and w becomes b in the same environment. Musa writes them as and .
Now that you know the letters, why not try to read some Swahili written in Musa?
|Mpiga ngumi ukuta huumiza mkonowe.|
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