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Asa language

Language codes
ISO 639-3aas

The Asa (Aasá) language, commonly rendered Aasax (also rendered as Aasá, Aasáx, Aramanik, Asak, Asax, Assa, Asá[2]), was spoken by the Asa people of Tanzania. The language is extinct; ethnic Assa in northern Tanzania remember only a few words they overheard their elders use, and none ever used it themselves. Little is known of the language; what is recorded was probably Aasa lexical words used in a register of Maasai, similar to the mixed language Mbugu.[3]


Asa is usually classified as Cushitic, most closely related to Kw'adza. However, it might have retained a non-Cushitic layer from an earlier language shift.

The Aramanik (Laramanik) people once spoke Asa, but shifted to Nandi (as opposed to Maasai).


Asa is known from three primary sources: two vocabulary lists from 1904 and 1928, and a collection by W. C. Winter from 1974.[4]

The following are some example words of Asa, together with probable cognates identified in Kw'adza and Iraqw:[5]

  • 'big': jira — Kw'adza dire
  • 'bird': širaʔa — Iraqw tsʼirʕi
  • 'louse': ʔita — Iraqw itirmo
  • 'blood': saʔaka — Kw'adza saʔuko
  • 'bone': farit — Kw'adza falaʔeto, Iraqw fara
  • 'horn': hadoŋ — Kw'adza xalinko, Iraqw xaraŋ
  • 'hair': seʔemuk — Iraqw seʔemi
  • 'head': sogok — Kw'adza sagiko, Iraqw saga
  • 'eye': ilat — Kw'adza ilito, Iraqw ila
  • 'mouth': afok — Kw'adza afuko, Iraqw afa
  • 'tongue': šeferank — Iraqw tsʼifraŋ
  • 'breast': isank — Iraqw isaŋ
  • 'heart': monok — Kw'adza munaku, Irawn muna
  • 'water': maʔa — Kw'adza maʔaya, Iraqw maʔay
  • 'sand': hajat — Kw'adza hasinko, Iraqw hasaŋ
  • 'stone': deʔok — Kw'adza tlʼaʔiko, Iraqw tlʼaʕano
  • 'to drink': wat- — Kw'adza wat-, Iraqw wah-
  • 'to eat': ʔag- — Kw'adza ag-, Iraqw ʕayim-
  • 'to lie': ʔat- — Kw'adza kʼat-, Iraqw qat-
  • 'to die': ga- — Kw'adza gwaʔ-, Iraqw gwa-
  • 'to kill': gas- — Kw'adza gaʔis-, Iraqw gas-
  • 'far': sanga — Kw'adza sagumu, Iraqw saw
  • 'near': šaya — Kw'adza tsʼahemi, Iraqw tsʼew

Some loanwords in Asa from other languages are known:[6]

  • 'three': samak and 'five': mut, from Datooga
  • 'dog': kite, from Chaga


  1. ^ Winter 1979.
  2. ^ "Aasáx". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2019-07-17.
  3. ^ Petrollino & Mous 2010, p. 212.
  4. ^ Ehret 1980, p. 14.
  5. ^ Ehret 1980, pp. 386–388.
  6. ^ Ehret 1980, p. 385.


  • Ehret, Christopher (1980). The Historical Reconstruction of Southern Cushitic phonology and vocabulary. Kölner Beiträge zur Afrikanistik. Vol. 5. Dietrich Reimer.
  • Petrollino, Sara; Mous, Maarten (2010). "Recollecting Words and Expressions in Aasá, a Dead Language in Tanzania". Anthropological Linguistics. 52 (2): 206–216. doi:10.1353/anl.2010.0012.
  • Winter, Christopher (1979). "Language Shift among the Aasáx, a Hunter-Gatherer Tribe in Tanzania". Sprache und Geschicte in Afrika. 1: 175–204.

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Asa language
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