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KirundiBackground and status

Kirundi (or Rundi) belongs to the Bantu group of the Niger-Congo family.  It has about 6 million speakers, most of whom live in Burundi, a country located in east-central Africa.

It is a dialect of the Rwanda-Rundi language spoken by nine million people in Burundi (a country located in east-central Africa) and adjacent parts of Tanzania and Congo-Kinshasa, as well as in Uganda (the Rundi speakers living in the latter named countries are mostly refugee populations from Burundi). Together with French, it is the official language of Burundi. The language is closely related to Ruanda of neighbouring Rwanda and are more or less mutually intelligible with Kinyarwanda - in fact, the two are little more than dialects of the same language.

The inhabitants of Rwanda and Burundi belong to several different ethnic groups: Hutu (84%), Tutsi, including Hima (15%), and Twa (1%) (a pygmy people). The fact that these ethnic groups share the same language is assumed to be the result of the Hutu outnumbering the latter two groups. Neighbouring dialects of Rundi are mutually intelligible with Ha, a language spoken in western Tanzania. Rundi is frequently cited as a language where Meeussen's rule, a rule describing a certain pattern of tonal change in Bantu languages, is active.

Growth and usage

There has been a standardised spelling system for Kirundi since the 1940s, and Rundi is spoken by the entire Burundi population. Although popular in stature it must also be noted that Swahili is the language of trade in the area.

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