Adding The South to the Swahili World: A Documentation of Mwani, Mahindo, and Boani, Swahili Languages in Mozambique




Prof. Dr. Clarissa Vierke


Afrikanistik I




2014 - 2016


This project concerns the documentation of the so-called Swahili languages Mwani (Kimwani), Mahindo (Imahindo) and probably also Boani (Iboani) spoken in the northern coastal region of Mozambique. While Swahili language and culture of the Kenyan and Tanzanian heartland have received ample scholarly attention, the southern part of the Swahiliphone area has hitherto remained something of a blind spot. Whereas most studies on early Swahili history (800-1500) acknowledge that Swahili culture once extended from Brava (Somalia) in the north to Chibwene (Mozambique) in the south, research on Swahili language and culture tends to stop at the Mozambican border. The principle aim of this two-year project is to focus on the hitherto neglected languages from northern Mozambique and to document Mwani, Mahindo and possibly also Boani. The descriptive efforts are embedded in a larger research endeavour which envisages three stages: firstly, collecting and analysing primary data of the missing languages, secondly, making group-internal and group-external linguistic comparisons (with other Swahili varieties and neighbouring Bantu languages) and thirdly, relating the linguistic data to extra-linguistic historical, archaeological and anthropological evidence of the Swahili world in Mozambique in a diachronic sociolinguistic framework.