This if the second part of a five part series in which we are focusing on the dialects of the Gikuyu language. Today we interrogate what sets apart the Gikuyu spoken in Kiambu from say, the Muranga dialect.
But before we get there, a little history is necessary. The Kiambu Gikuyu moved there from Murang’a recently. All those major family names of Kiambu like Kihara(Kabete) Kiratu( Limuru) Gatama( Westlands) Gatonye,Mbuu( Githunguri) emigrated from Muranga as late as 1850s.That explains why there are no major differences- be they syntactical, morphological or phonological- between Murang’a and Kiambu Gikuyu.However, there are some subtle features that mark Kiambu Gikuyu dialect apart.Here are some of them:
1.Gumba/ Athi/ Dorobo loan words
The Kiambu Gikuyu absorbed a considerable high degree of Gumba/ Athi/ Dorobo loan words since those were the original inhabitants of the land. When the history of these people is finally written,Kiambu people should tell us where they went. But I digress.
2.Maa loan words
Due to intercourse with the Maasai,the Kiambu Gikuyu has a lot of Maa words.Such words include ‘ rumuru’ for mosquito which is ‘ rwagi’ in Muranga.Others include ” nding’uri” which a means tycoon.
3. Letter ‘V’
The Gikuyu language doesn’t have the sound ‘ vi” which is used by some Kiambu Gikuyu speakers.To some of them, a road is ‘varavara’.The rest of the Gikuyu speakers articulate this as ‘ barabara’.
4. Longer vowels
Kiambu Gikuyu speakers tend to stretch some vowels in their articulation as opposed to Murang’a speakers whose vowels are quite short and almost staccato.Examples:
A Murang’ a speaker will say ” haria” while a Kiambu speaker will say ” haaria”.Same with ” hwai” and ‘ cai’. Is this the reason why Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’ o writes ‘Njeeri’ instead of ‘Njeri’?
Its also worth noting that Kiambu has people names that originate from Maasai.Ngaruiya is from Maa( Enkaruiya). Same with Thindiu( Sendeyo) and Mburugo( Purko).
Also, most of the names in places like Ndeiya and Kikuyu are distinctively Maasai.These includes names like Odiri,Tiekunu,Mirithu etc
Kiambu Gikuyu is marked by less folksy idioms in comparison to that of Nyeri and Muranga.In contrast, its marked with more urbane turn of phrases.
7.In general,Kiambu speakers tend to speak their Gikuyu with a more distinct pronunciation, unlike Murang’a Gikuyu who glosses over letters like ‘m’ in a word like “mburi” or ‘n’ in ‘ndege’.Is this an influence from English/Swahili?
Finally, methinks Kiambu Gikuyu sounds ‘slightly sweeter’ to the ear than Murang’a Gikuyu .I will attribute that to that culinary habit of Kiambu Gikuyu of eating mukimo cooked with sweet bananas( imagine that!) but again, hats only a theory.