Fourth post in my A to Z of endangered languages series… and today we have Dahalo.


Dahalo (or Sanye; though this can also refer to the Aweer and Waata languages) is a Cushitic language spoken by members of the Dahalo ethnic group, who live in Kenya, mainly near the mouth of the Tana river. According to ethnologue, the ethnic population is around 3,000 (as of 2007); however in 1992, the number of Dahalo speakers was estimated to be only around 400. UNESCO, therefore, classifies the language as being severely endangered.

Naturally, due to the ethnic population being so low, there are unlikely to be many Dahalo speakers; however, according to this video (in English and Swahili), the Dahalo culture is being assimilated and now many Dahalo people speak Swahili instead of their native language.

According to wikipedia, the Dahalo language has many interesting attributes, including a large consonant inventory (between 50 to 62 consonants are reported) and a highly diverse sound system, which uses all four airway mechanisms found in human languages.

Sources/Further reading

Wikipedia: Dahalo language
World Atlas of Language Structures Online: Dahalo
Natural Track: Dahalo
SIL International: Sociolinguistic Surveys in Selected Kenyan Languages – The Boni/Dahalo Report
Ethnologue: Dahalo
Endangered Languages Project: Dahalo
Obiero, Ogone John: Evaluating Language Revitalization in Kenya – The Contradictory Face and Place of The Local Community Factor

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