Comoros Languages

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Description[edit | edit source]

The official languages of the Comoros are Comorian, French and Arabic, as recognized under its 2001 constitution. Although each language holds equal recognition under the constitution, language use varies across Comorian society. Unofficial minority languages such as Malagasy and Swahili are also present on the island with limited usage. [1]

Comorian

  • Comorian, or Shikomoro is the most widely spoken language in the country, spoken by 96.9% of the population
  • Comorian is related to Swahili as a Bantu Language and written in Arabic script
  • Each island has its own dialect of Comorian with the Shingazija dialect as the most widely used variant spoken on Grande Comore (Ngazija) by about 312,000 people
  • Shimwali dialect is spoken by 29,000 people on Moheli (Mwali)
  • Shinzwani dialect is spoken by about 275,000 people on Anjouan (Nzwani)
  • There has been significant debate over which variant of the Comorian language is considered as the national language [2]

French

  • French is the second most spoken language in the Comoros with 25.97% of the population speaking French in 2018
  • It is considered the language of government and commerce and is acquired through formal, non-religious education
  • Similar to Arabic, higher education is also dependent on French language ability with many Comorian students attending universities in France [3]

Arabic

  • Although an official language, Arabic is a minority language in the Comoros Islands and it is not reported as a first language amongst the population
  • Arabic functions as a language for the country’s dominant religion, Islam, with 95% of the population adhering to the Sunni Muslim faith
  • Arabic was a language of commerce, used for trade in the Comoros for over fifteen hundred years
  • From the 1970's, the Comorian society began to separate Arabic from religious purposes and teach it as a privileged secular subject
  • Higher education in the Comoros is tied to Arabic language usage, with many Comorian students receiving tertiary education in Arabic-speaking countries [4]

Malagasy

  • A dialect of Malagasy called Shibushi is spoken by an estimated 39,000 people in the Comoros Islands
  • Traces of Malagasy speakers predominantly reside in the islands of Mayotte and Moheli [5]

Swahili

  • Historically, Swahili served as the common language of the Comoros, used for trade with the Arabic Peninsula, the East African Coast
  • Swahili shares similarities with the Comorian language and is estimated to be spoken by 1% of the population
  • Much of the early history of the Comoros is written in Swahili, using the Arabic script
  • Many ancient Comorian poems and songs written in Swahili detail key historical events such as the slave trade, and the various battles between the Sultans who once ruled the Comoros
  • Kiunguja, a dialect of Swahili, is also spoken in the Comoros, particularly on Grande Comore Islands [6]

Word List(s)[edit | edit source]

Comorian or Shikomori

French

Arabic

Alphabet and Pronunciation[edit | edit source]

Comorian

French

Arabic

Language Aids and Dictionaries[edit | edit source]

Comorian

French

Arabic

Additional Resources[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Languages of the Comoros," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_Comoros, accessed 7 April 2021.
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Languages of the Comoros," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_Comoros#Comorian, accessed 7 April 2021.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Languages of the Comoros," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_Comoros#French, accessed 7 April 2021.
  4. Wikipedia contributors, "Languages of the Comoros," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_Comoros#Arabic, accessed 7 April 2021.
  5. Wikipedia contributors, "Languages of the Comoros," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_Comoros#Malagasy, accessed 7 April 2021.
  6. Wikipedia contributors, "Languages of the Comoros," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_Comoros#Swahili, accessed 7 April 2021.