Lusoga language

Lusoga language

:"This article is about the Lusoga language. For the people, see Basoga, and for the ‎Busoga kingdom and region, see Busoga."

LuSoga (Soga) is a tonal Bantu language that is spoken in ‎‎Uganda. It is the native language of people who are indigenous/originally from ‎the Busoga region. In terms of the number of speakers, is one of the major ‎languages spoken in Uganda, after English, Swahili, and Luganda. ‎However, it is mainly spoken in the Busoga region of southern Uganda by + 3 ‎million people (2007 census), which is mainly within the natural boundaries of Lake ‎Victoria to the south, Lake Kyoga to the north, the Nile river to the west and ‎the Mpologoma "(Lion)" river to the east of Iganga district. It is tonal in the ‎sense that a given word can change its meaning depending on its tone, i.e. some words ‎are differentiated by pitch. Words that are spelled the same may carry different ‎meanings according to their pitch. Lusoga is rich in metaphors, proverbs and ‎folktales.‎language
region=Mainly in Busoga region
speakers=First language (native speakers): + 3 million (2007 census)
Second language: + 100 000 (2007 census)
rank= ~ 136
fam7=Narrow Bantu|
nation= Major language of Uganda, official status "unclear/pending..."
agency=Lusoga Language Authority (LULA) (Uganda)

History and development

Lusoga, the native language of the people of Busoga, developed over time as a ‎spoken language. Its written form is only as recent as the arrival of the Arab and ‎European traders and missionaries. It only until after the second half of the nineteenth ‎century, that Lusoga was first written down and appeared in print in its own right.‎

The Lusoga language is very similar to neighbouring languages, such as Luganda ‎and Lugwere. It is believed that the people in southern Busoga originally came ‎from Buganda and in the early 14th Century overwhelmed the original inhabitants ‎‎- the Luo who came from the north and Iteso who came from the north-east.‎

Lusoga is used in some primary schools in Busoga as pupils begin to learn English, the official language of Uganda. It is also taught in ‎secondary schools and is offered as a course subject in tertiary institutions such as ‎‎Busoga University and Makerere University.‎


‎Linguistically, the Basoga are part of the Bantu speaking group. Originally, ‎Lusoga language had several dialects formed by the intermingling of people ‎during the early migration period, 17th and 18th century. There were so many ‎dialects of the Lusoga language that it was difficult to reach agreement on the correct ‎way to spell or pronounce certain words. For instance, in the north of Busoga, ‎there is a distinct 'H' in the vocabulary of the local dialects, but people from southern ‎‎Busoga did not have this distinct 'H' in the vocabulary of the local dialects. ‎Busoga was mainly divided into two dialect zones. Across the northern part of ‎‎Busoga, the dialects Lulamogi and Lupakoyo was traditionally spoken. ‎‎Lupakoyo mostly resembled Runyoro. It had a close belt of Runyoro ‎associated dialects running east from Bunyoro, across the northern region of ‎‎Buganda, across northern Busoga and through Bugwere, which is east of ‎‎Busoga. In the southern part of Busoga a dialect known as Lutenga was ‎traditionally spoken which resembled Luganda. Related dialects were also spoken ‎in the Ssese Islands, Buvuma Island and eastern Buganda.‎

But with the established of the Lusoga Language Authority (LULA), Busoga ‎Kingdom has promoted a standardised Lusoga language. It has done enough research ‎on the Lusoga language and published several literatures in Lusoga. It publications ‎can be found at Busoga Cultural Centre Offices library located in the Nile ‎garden in Jinja town. Others are available in bookshops throughout Busoga ‎and in major bookstores in Kampala and other parts of the country. Some of the ‎more accomplished Lusoga publications include a Lusoga Bible, grammar books, ‎riddles, proverbs, several story books and dictionaries e.g. English/Lusoga - ‎Lusoga/English dictionary. A limited online version is available at ‎‎ [ Lusoga - English ‎Dictionary] .‎

ome useful basic grammar and vocabulary

‎In common with other tonal Bantu languages, Lusoga has a noun class system in ‎which prefixes on nouns mark membership of one of the noun genders. Pronouns, ‎adjectives, and verbs reflect the noun gender of the nominal they refer to. Some ‎examples of noun classes:‎

Possessive Prefixes

‎In the Bantu languages around the Lake Victoria region in Uganda, nouns are reflected mainly by changing prefixes: human beings are indicated by the prefix "Ba-" (plural), and "Mu-" (singular), and the name of the country "Bu-".

*mu - person (singular), e.g. musoga = native of Busoga land
*bu - land, e.g. Busoga = land of the Basoga
*lu - language, e.g. Lusoga = language of the Basoga
*ba - people, e.g. Basoga = the Basoga people
*ki - customs or traditions, e.g. kisoga = describes religious tradition or culture common to the Basoga people.

elf Standing pronouns

*Nze – me
*Iwe/Imwe – you

Always attached to a verb

*N – I
*O – You "(singular)"
*A – He/She
*Tu – We/Us
*Mu – You "(plural)"
*Ba – They


*Wano – Here
*Kino – This (thing)
*Ono – This (person)
*Oyo – That (person)
*Bino – These (things)


*Ani – Who?
*Ki – What?
*Lwaki - Why?
*Tya – How?


Greeting in Lusoga is accomplished just as it is in the western countries. However, it assumes a more personal nature and just as in the West, its form depends on the time of the day and the elapsed time since the last contact with the greeter.

The following dialogue illustrates the basic form to greet a peer or an elder in a respectful manner:

:"Person A:":Wasuzotya (osiibyotya) ssebo (nnyabo)? – How did you sleep (How was your day) sir(madam)?:"Person B:":Bulungi, wasuzotya (osiibyotya) ssebo (nnyabo)? – Well (Good), How did you sleep (How was your day) sir (madam)? – Well, how did you sleep (How was your day) sir (madam)?:"Person A:":Bulungi ssebo (nnyabo) – Well sir (madam)

The personal nature of the greetings ensues when the individual being greeted chooses to answer the question instead of merely responding with good or fine. It is sort of like being asked "How do you do?" and you respond "How do you do?" However, in Lusoga, the individual being greeted is free to actually delve into the fine details.

Additionally, simply drop the sir/madam to achieve the same effect as in English. The above dialog only addresses greeting one person because some words change into multiple others e.g. "Wasuzotya" is the combination of a singular prefix (Wa - you), word (sula - sleep), and singular postfix (otya - How did) spoken as one with a plural form that subsequently becomes "Mwasuze mutya" which is composed of two distinct words emerging from two different plural prefixes, a word, and the plural form of the postfix. It is sometimes impossible to not separate the plural form.


*Ninze Nankwanga – I am Nankwanga

ome common Verbs

When conjugating the verb, remove ‘oku’ and replace it with the required pronoun i.e. n, o, a, tu, mu, ba.

**okukola – to work/to do,
***nkola – I work/do,
***okola – you work/do,
***akola – he/she works/does,
***tukola – we work/do,
***mukola – you work/do (plural),
***bakola – they work/do.

*Okukola – to work/to do
*Okusoma – to read/to study
*Okunhwa – to drink
*Okulya – to eat (Be careful, the above example does not work all the time with all forms of all words, as some verbs are irregular e.g. the singular from here is Ndya. However it is a start)
*Okutambula – to walk
*Okuvuga – to drive/to ride
*Okusobola – to be able to
*Okutwala - to carry/to take
*Okuseka - to laugh


As long as you learn to count from 1 to 10 and 20, 30, 40, the rest will be easy. It is just a matter of joining one number to the other.

Telling the Time

Telling the time in Lusoga is different from the way it is told in English because hours of darkness correspond to PM to include early morning hours. You wake up at 6:00 am while a Musoga waking up at the same time refers to the same time as "essawa erii ikumi na ibiri munkyo (the time is 12 in the morning)". Essentially, the number representing the current time is simply skewed behind by six. Time is said using the word ‘essaawa’, e.g., essaawa ndala – 7 o’clock.


*Food – Emmere
*Sugar – Sukaali
*Coffee – Kaawa
*Milk – Amata
*Chicken – Nkoko
*Teaspoon – Kajiiko
*Plate – Sowaani
*Saucepan – Sefuliya
*Cup – Kikopo

General phrases & vocabulary

*Ssente imeka – How much (price)
*(Bed)room – ekisenge
*Table – Meeza
*House – Enhumba
*Kitchen – Eifumbiro
*Door – Olwiggi
*Chair – Entebe
*Wait! – Linda!
*Journey/trip – Olugendo
*Get out – Fuluma
*Tomorrow – Olwaidho
*Slow – Mpola
*Quick – Mangu
*Mr – Mwami
*Miss – Mukyala
*My friend! – Munange!
*My friends! – Banange!
*Wansi/Ghansi - Under
*Senga - Aunt
*Omuntu - Person
*Omusaiza/omusaadha - Man
*Omukazi - Woman
*Omwaana - Child
*Omuzungu - White man/white person
*Eitaala - Lamp
*Omwezi - Moon/Month


* Fallers, Margaret Chave (1960) "The Eastern Lacustrine Bantu (Ganda and ‎‎Soga)". Ethnographic survey of Africa: East central Africa, Vol 11. London: ‎‎International African Institute.‎
* Van der Wal, Jenneke (2004) "Lusoga Phonology". MA Thesis, Leiden ‎University.‎
* Cohen, David William (1970). "A survey of interlacustrine chronology". "The ‎Journal of African History", 1970, 11, 2, 177-202.‎
* Cohen, David William (1986). "Towards a reconstructed past : Historical texts from ‎‎Busoga, Uganda". Fontes historiae africanae. Oxford: ‎Oxford University Press.‎
* Fallers, Lloyd A (1965) "Bantu Bureaucracy - A Century of Political evolution ‎among the Basoga of Uganda". Phoenix Books, The University of Chicago.‎

ee also

* Basoga - Basoga ethnic group‎
* Busoga - Busoga Kingdom‎
* - Uganda's other ‎Kingdoms on Wikipedia

External links

* [ Ethnologue - Lusoga] A ‎detailed Ethnologue report for Lusoga by
* [ Busoga Kingdom Online - Lusoga] An ‎excellent online summary of the Lusoga language by the Busoga Kingdom Online
* [ Lusoga - English ‎Dictionary] Online Lusoga - English Dictionary by Webster's



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