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Tumbuka Language Page

1 CLASSIFICATION AND WHERE SPOKEN

Tumbuka belongs to the Tumbuka group of Bantu (Guthrie N20) and is spoken in northern and central Malawi and the Lundazi District of Zambia.

2 NUMBER OF SPEAKERS

World Almanac (1998) estimates 2 million Tumbuka speakers. More than 489,000 Tumbuka speakers were noted in Malawi and Zambia (1966 census); Voegelin and Voegelin (1977) give a figure of 156,000, while Alexandre (1981) states there are at least 200,000. Vail (personal communication, 1985) reports there are about 500,000 speakers, the majority living in Malawi.

3 DIALECT SURVEY

Voegelin and Voegelin (1977) report nine mutually intelligible dialects of Tumbuka. Kashoki (1980, p. 3) notes that the Senga, Tumbuka, Fungwe, and Yombe of Zambia "speak practically the same language." Vail considers these dialect names to be geographical as opposed to linguistic designations.

4 USAGE

In Zambia, Vail reports, "while Tumbuka is recognized as a major language of the country, it is not one of its official languages. This means that while it may be spoken and have literature published in it, it is not used on the Zambia Broadcasting System." In Malawi, Tumbuka had its former (colonial) official status removed by government action, thereby prohibiting anything to be printed in it aside from the Bible and religious tracts. Therefore, in Malawi as well as Zambia, Tumbuka is a local language..

5 ORTHOGRAPHIC STATUS

At this time there are several variants of Tumbuka orthography, and no known effort is being made to develop a standardized one.

6 SETS OF LEARNING MATERIALS

Presumably, one set of learning materials would be sufficient.

[African Studies Center]
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