Vocabulary Iraqw

by Maarten Mous  

The vocabulary contains 1262 meaning-word pairs ("entries") corresponding to core LWT meanings from the recipient language Iraqw. The corresponding text chapter was published in the book Loanwords in the World's Languages. The language page Iraqw contains a list of all loanwords arranged by donor languoid.

Word form LWT code Meaning Core list Borrowed status Source words

Field descriptions


The basis of the database is Mous, Qorro and Kießling (2002). In the summer of 2005 Dr. Martha Qorro (native speaker and linguist from University of Dar es Salaam) and Maarten Mous went through the whole list together and discussed all problematic entries.
For the word form field, the Iraqw orthography has been used. This has the following properties: / is a voiced pharyngeal fricative with creaky voice, hh is a voiceless pharyngeal fricative, ' is a glottal stop (not written but present word initially and between different vowels, thus ai is in tact a'i, sl is a voiceless lateral fricative, tl and ts are ejective affricates, the former with lateral release, ng is a velar nasal word-imtially and word-finally and followed by a voiced velar stop between vowels. Double vowels are long, (high) tone is only marked on the first vowel symbol low tone is left unmarked. For verbs we have taken the form of the first person singular which is not a complete form since it needs an additional inflectional word to form a complete sentence. Nouns are often derived for number; sometimes I have taken the underived plural form (and given a plural meaning in W6), sometimes the underived singular form and when all forms are derived, the singular. This is not always reflected in the Analyzability field.
We did not provide counterparts for for those LWT labels that we felt would not be used by rural Iraqw speakers. Educated Iraqw speakers might use Swahili words for some of these but most Iraqw speakers would never feel the need to use equivalents of these labels. It was extremely useful to have the viewpoint of a native speaker and linguist on these matters.


Many noun forms are in fact derived but these are not marked as analyzable. Since most nouns contain a number suffix we have decided not to mark these as analyzed. Also words that contain grammatical morphemes that are reconstructable in that form (with the suffix) are not considered analyzable. However words that contain a wordclass changing derivation and words that warrant a separate entry in the dictionary are given as analyzable. Semi-analyzable was used for those words that contain lexicalised derivations that seemed to be of interest to present.


Age indications are based on Kießling & Mous (2003). What is reconstructable to Proto Iraqwoid level (Iraqw+Gorwa) is indicated as –200; for proto Northern West Rift (Iraqw, Gorwa; Alagwa) as –300 and as proto West-Rift (Iraqw, Gorwa, Alagwa, Burunge) as –500. These dates are very tentative guesses and not based on any external evidence. We have not indicated age beyond the West-Rift period because we do not know yet how the South Cushitic Rift languages fit into the wider (Eastern) Cushitic picture. Colonial is used for the colonial period and recent for the post-colonial period. The distinction is not always easy to make and the division between these two is not rigid.
Sometimes the root is old but there is no information on the age of the specific derivation in the word form; in those cases “Age” is given is “no information”. For example, tiqti ‘illness’ has ‘no information’ for its age but it is derived from the root tiq ‘to be ill’ which can be reconstructed to proto West-Rift level.

-500 at times of proto West Rift
-300 pre-colonial (only 1 item: masomba ‘youth’)
-200 pre-colonial
colonial colonial
recent post-colonial


There was no need to use W23 (register), W3 (original script), and no possiblity to indicate Frequency (W13).


It is quite straightforward to recognise borrowings because Iraqw (Cushitic, Afroasiatic) is in a different language phylum from its major lenders, Swahili (Bantu, Niger Congo) and Datooga (Nilotic, Nilo-Saharan). Borrowed words are nearly always of the category “Clearly borrowed”. In one or two cases this is not so clear and for those cases, the reason is given in the database. Thus borrowed status is usually clear.
The major donor languages are Swahili and Datooga. Datooga is in fact a collection of dialects but we have not tried to distinguish them. Datooga forms pose a problem anyway because for some words that Iraqw speakers identify as Datooga loans we do not know the Datooga form due to the lack of knowledge about Datooga lexicon.


Ehret, Christopher 1980. The Historical Reconstruction of Southern Cushitic Phonology and Vocabulary. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.
Kießling, Roland. 1998. Reconstructing the Sociohistorical Background of the Iraqw Language. Afrika und Übersee 81:167-225.
Kießling, Roland and Maarten Mous 2003. The Lexical Reconstruction of West-Rift Southern Cushitic. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe.
Mous, Maarten, Martha Qorro and Roland Kießling. 2002. An Iraqw Dictionary. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe
Voßen, Rainer. 1997. Die Khoe-Sprachen. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe.


COLL = collective
INDEF = indefinite
N.AG. = Nomen agentis
SGLTV = singulative
VBLZ = verbalizer

The following glosses are used in the Morpheme By Morpheme Gloss: ADJective, APPLicative, CAUSative, COLLective, DEMonstrative, INDEFinite, NMLZ nominalizer, N.AG. Nomen agentis, POSSessive, SGLTV singulative, Q question word marker, VBLZ verbalizer.