This is the third piece in a series about the four dialects of the Gikuyu language.
Murang’a Gikuyu is considered, to a large extent, the standard Gikuyu.Its like the RP pronunciation which is considered the Standard English.The first Gikuyu- English dictionary was based on the Murang’a Gikuyu and written by one Rev.A.W. Mc Gregor of the Weithaga Anglican mission in 1909.
What sets Murang’a dialect from the rest of the Gikuyu speakers? Here we go:
1. Glossing over ” m” and “n”
Murang’a Gikuyu speakers don’t make any effort to articulate the “n” in ” ndege” or “m” in ” mbembe”.Such that the words end up sounding like “dege” and ” bebe”.
Muranga Gikuyu speakers tend to use deeper idioms and folksy colloquialism in their speech. This is due to the dialect being the most archetypal.For example, my uncle,himself a son of Murang’a will tell you ‘ tigìria njaù” when he wants to tell you not to overdo anything. Most Kiambu speakers can’t figure out that.
3. Archaic vocabulary and distinctions
In Murang’a Gikuyu,” muhiki” and ” muiriti” mean two different things.In some areas you may even find the archaic ” nyarari’ still in use. To the rest of the Gikuyu speakers,” muhiki” and ” muiritu” are one and same thing.
The same pattern applies to ” mutwe” and ” kiongo” .
4.Murang’a Gikuyu intones the first or second syllable which gives the language metre and in addition, poetic feel.Example:
” We nowe njata ya*kwa”…
” Rubaru rwa Ndeme*thiu”…
In the above line, the intonation falls on the same syllable at the end of every line, adding to its musicality.
Maybe these explains why most Gikuyu musicians hail from Murang’a.From Musaimo to Kamaru(RIP) to Kigia to DK to Wangari Gioche( Carey B ) of Tuirio Twega fame.Not forgetting John Demathew,the tribal griot of the House of Mumbi,the Beethoven of Gikuyu music.
Nyeri Gikuyu lacks this musicality. Reason why apart from H.M.Kariuki of mwoboko fame,Nyeri region has never produced any notable musician. There’s also that little fact of Nyeri men being collectively sat on by their kali wives like stools. Can a sad man sing? But lets not get there for now.
5. Short vowels
Murang’ a Gikuyu speakers tend to use short vowels such that their language sounds rushed or almost staccato.When a Kiambu speaker articulates ‘reehe”,the double vowel is clear.But a Murang’a speaker will shorten the vowel considerably.
Murang’a Gikuyu doesnt have the ‘ sh’ sound,unlike the Nyeri one.Thus in Nokras Hotel Murang’a tea is ‘ cai’ while in Kungumaitu Hotel in Nyeri its ‘ shai” or ” chai”.
7. Sub- dialects
The Gikuyu of places like Kiria-ini,Kamacharia is more inclined to Nyeri.Ditto with Gikuyu spoken in Gatanga which is more inclined to Kiambu.In addition,Gatanga people dont say they are from Murang’a but Thika.Thika is the place where in the ancient times, Gikuyu, Kamba and Maasai wizards would hold wizardry contests back in the day.The competitions would involve alot of thunder and lightening.Those that were defeated would be buried there- and hence the term ‘ thika'(bury).Story for another day though.
There are names that are distinctively Murang’a.Kamande is a pure Murang’a name,common in Kandara area.It must have been an age set name at some point.Gioce is also a unique Murang’a male name.
Waiyego is a name for a girl from Iyego location in Kangema.Mugoiri is a name for a girl from Mugoiri,the ancient pottery center in Kiharu.Mbatia is a name unique to Kangema,having its roots in Kiruri area.Did my Kangema kinsmen at some point capture a Maasai boy called Batian and Gikuyunize the name to Mbatia? Maybe.
Chege,Kagwanja,Muhia and Macharia are also common Muranga names scattered in the hilly county.The name Macharia which translates to ” the one who searches for wealth” captures the spirit of the quintessential Murang’a man- always looking for money and mburoti.