Mother tongue languages facing extinction

By People Daily On Wed, 7 Aug, 2019 09:29 | 3 mins read
Editor's Review
  • According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), mother tongue is considered critically endangered.

1. Bong’om

This is a Kalenjin language in Kenya also known as Sabaot; they belong to the Nilotic speaking language group.

According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the language is considered critically endangered because children or a larger part of the community no longer speak it, hence hindering continuity of the language.

It has over 143,000 speakers remaining of which most of them belong to the middle age; this makes children to be left out as speakers. Their existence at the Mt Elgon region makes most of them to be absorbed by the Bukusu, making them moribund. 

2. Boni

Boni is a Cushitic speaking tribe of the Eastern Kenya also known as Aweer. They were traditionally famous for their hunting and gathering.

In as much as many steps were put in place to protect the Boni language as well as their culture, there are only 8,000 speakers in existence and most of them have been assimilated by the Rendile.

3. Dahalo

Originally, Dahalo are Cushitic speakers. But due to the reducing numbers of its speakers, the remaining members have learnt Bantu languages, owing to the fact that most of them are dispersed among the Swahili and other Bantu speakers with no villages of their own.

Children no longer learn the language, driving the language to the point of being extinct. It is estimated that only 400 Dahalo speakers are still alive. They are found at the Coast near the mouth of the Tana River.

4. Omotik

The number of Omotik speakers is probably less than 50 as they have integrated fully with the Maasai.

Them being Nilotic in nature made the Omotik (also known as Sawas) to culturally and economically mixed with the Maasai making young Omotiks learn the Maasai dialect as their first language.

And their nomadic nature has greately contributed to their almost extinct language and culture. They are found in the Great Rift Valley.

5. Ongamo

Although there are over 1,000 Ongamo (Ngas) members surviving, just a few of them are able to converse in their native language.

This puts the language at risk because even the younger generation has been left out on learning their mother tongue as the Maasai dialect takes over. They are found in the Rift Valley along the Kenya-Tanzania boarder.

6. Suba

They are Bantus who speak the Suba language. It is estimated that their population is about 300,000 with substantial fluent speakers. 

They migrated to Kenya from Uganda and settled on the two Lake Victoria islands of Rusinga and Mfangano. Others also settled on the mainland areas including Gembe , Gwassi, Kaksingri of Suba South and Migori.

They are highly influenced linguistically by Dholuo that has over the years contributed highly to the shift in their language. However, the Suba protect their culture through events such as the Rusinga Festival.

The younger generation of the Suba has drifted towards the Dholuo and other languages such as English, almost driving Suba language to extinction.

7. Yaaku

The Yaaku are also known as Mukogodo. There are more than 4,000 Yakunte speakers, but only seven people are able to speak their native language making them endangered.

They are nowadays recognised as  a sub-group of the Masaai living in the Mukogodo forest west of Mount Kenya in Laikipia county. However, even as the language dwindles several efforts have been put in place to ensure that the language is saved.

8. Burji

This Cushitic language with its origins in Northern Kenya, Marsabit to be precise, is fast becoming endangered. Factors such as marginalization of the vast arid area and the failure for the only 10,400 speakers of the language currently to pass it down to young generations are likely to drive the language to extinction.

9. Kore

The Kore, who are found in Lamu Island, speak Somali as their first language mainly because their native Kore language is critically endangered. Data obtained by German linguist and specialist in African studies, Bernd Heine, reveals there are only two surviving Kore speakers.

However, they have retained their ethnical identity of not intermarrying with the Somali who they regard as bandits. So, what will be the future of the language after the duo passes on? Your guess is as good as mine.

10. Terik

Terik is a sub-tribe of the Kalenjin and closely associated to the Nandi sub-tribe. It has a population of approximately 120,000 and their area of settlement is Mt Elgon.

The assimilation of the Terik people by the Nandi has greatly affected their native Terik language, putting it in great danger of distinction. The Terik have even introduced vernacular lessons in schools to protect the language from disappearing.

Related Topics