Yawo Language

The Yawo people speak a Bantu language known mainly as Chiyao or Ajawa. Spellings of the language name vary widely.

Population total all countries: 3,116,000. 

2,200,000 speakers in Malawi (with literacy rate of 5% in L1, 60% Chichewa). Location: Southern Region, southeast tip of Lake Malawi area, bordering Mozambique. Alternate Names in Malawi: Achawa, Adsawa, Adsoa, Ajawa, Ayao, Ayawa, Ayo, Chiyao, Djao, Haiao, Hiao, Hyao, Jao, Veiao, Wajao.

496,000 speakers in Mozambique (2006). Location: Niassa Province, south and west of Lake Malawi. Alternate Names in Mozambique: Achawa, Adsawa, Adsoa, Ajawa, Ayawa, Ayo, Chiyao, Ciyao, Djao, Haiao, Hiao, Hyao, Jao, Veiao, Wajao Dialects: Chikonono (Cikonono), Machinga, Makale (Cimakale), Mangochi, Massaninga (Cimassaninga), Tunduru Yao.

420,000 speakers in Tanzania (2006). Location: South central, Mtwara Region, Masasi district; Ruvuma Region, Tunduru district, east of Lake Malawi, Mozambique border area. Alternate Names in Tanzania: Achawa, Adsawa, Ajawa, Ayawa, Ayo, Chiyao, Djao, Hajao, Hiao, Hyao, Jao, Kiyao, Veiao, Wajao.

Language Status: 5 (Developing). Writing: Latin script. Classification: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, P, Yao. Comments: Muslim, Christian, traditional religion. Other Comments: Yao in Tanzania use a different orthography from Malawi; Mozambique Yao also has some differences.” -From SIL’s Ethnologue.com

Published Language & Literacy Materials

  1. Ciyawo-English, English-Ciyawo Dictionary by Ciyawo English Dictionary Project led by Dr. Ian Dicks [see more at the marketplace]

  2. A Practical Guide to Understanding Ciyawo by Dr. Ian Dicks & Shawn Dollar [see more at the marketplace]

  3. Linguas de Mocambique Vocabulario de CIYAO (from SIL Mozambique) [download here]

  4. U.S. Peace Corps manual (modified from the Chichewa version)

  5. A Chiyao course in three languages by David Jones Kaunjika, published by Montfort Media, Balaka, Malawi 2006 [learn more here]

  6. A study of Yao sentences by Wilfred Howell Whiteley, 1966 [read portions online here]

  7. A dictionary of the Yao language by George Meredith Sanderson, 1954

  8. A Yao Grammar by George Meredith Sanderson, 1922 [read online here]

  9. A Handbook of the Yao Language by Alexander Hetherwick, 1902 [download here] (second edition to the 1889 title below)

  10. Introductory Handbook of the Yao Language by Alexander Hetherwick, 1889 [download here]

  11. Collections for a Handbook of the Yao Language by Edward Steere, 1871 [download here]

  12. Yao-English Vocabulary by Chauncy Maples, 1880

  13. First and Second Yao-English Primer by R.S. Hynde, 1892 and 1894



For Malawi:

The Center for Language Studies, based out of Zomba, Malawi, and the Department of Education (Malawi) have been heavily involved in talks with Mozambican and other Southern African linguistic groups in standardizing an orthography, or way of writing, the language that the Yawo people speak. On this site, we have chosen to follow what the CLS has recommended, some of which is included below as downloadable documents in RTF format. [download here]

For more information, visit the CLS website or email them at cls(at)unima(dot)wn(dot)apc(dot)org.

New for 2010! The Centre for Language Studies, based at the University of Malawi in Zomba, has released “Amendments and/or Additional Rules to Ciyawo Orthography”. Please find it attached here in PDF form.


For Mozambique:

Work on the Mozambican orthography of Ciyaawo began in the 1980s. Currently, the approved orthography of Ciyaawo (note the double a in Ciyaawo) is found in:

Armindo Ngunga and Osvaldo G. Faquir. 2011. Padronização da Ortografia de Línguas Moçambicanas: Relatório do III Seminário. Maputo: Centro de Estudos Africanos.

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