Documenting the Dowe language

Documenting the Dowe language

Language: Dowe, Chidowe
Depositor: Karsten Legère
Location: Tanzania
Deposit Id: 0269
Grant id: SG0213
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit
The collection includes material from fieldwork among Dowe people of Msata and Miono Ward (Bagamoyo District, Coast Region, United Republic of Tanzania) conducted in 2012-2013. Dowe is a small Bantu language spoken in the hinterland of the Indian Ocean. The audio and video data deposited here are samples of rich oral traditions that were traced all over the Dowe area. In total, a wide range of speech events was recorded by the depositor as well as committed assistants such as Mr. Peter Mkwan’hembo in close cooperation with Mrisho Mkawa of Mkoko village. Mzee Mkawa transcribed the recently deposited Dowe recordings using an orthography which for practical reasons is close to the Swahili orthography. He was also responsible for a Swahili translation of the texts thus facilitating the access to the collection for those who are competent in the Tanzanian national language. A map drawn by Ms. Monika Feinen who is a professional cartographer illustrates the distribution of the Dowe language. In addition, photos of plants collected among Dowe people shed light on traditional knowledge that will be further documented in forthcoming plant use descriptions.

Group represented

Language information
The Dowe language (autonym Chidowe, xenonym Kidoe, Doe) is a small Bantu language of Guthrie’s G zone. It is spoken in the hinterland of the Indian Ocean coast in some villages of Msata and Miono Ward (Bagamoyo District, Coast Region) of the United Republic of Tanzania. “Ethnologue” claims that there were 24,000 Dowe speakers in 1987. The Language Atlas of Tanzania (MLT=Mradi wa Lugha za Tanzania. 2009. Atlasi ya Lugha za Tanzania. Dar es Salaam: Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam) p. 3 lists 7,944 Dowe speakers. The Dowe language is vibrant in villages like Mkoko, Gongo, Mtupeni, partly Matipwili and more, but under heavy Swahili influence for the meanwhile multi-ethnic and multi-lingual composition of originally typical Dowe villages along the tarmac road Msata – Bagamoyo (under construction), where still a number of excellent Dowe speakers can be found.

Other information
Acknowledgement This deposit is the result of generous ELDP funding and committed fieldwork as well as text editing in close cooperation with Dowe language experts.

Acknowledgement and citation
Short description Documenting Dowe, an endangered Bantu language of Tanzania.


Collection online
Resources online and curated


Karsten Legère
Affiliation: Institute of African Studies, University of Vienna

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Showing 1 - 10 of 13 Items

Coordinates of villages and names of villages.

Recorded on: 2013-01-18

Keywords: English - Doe - Swahili - Place names

Various offerings and rituals, e.g. rain making, unemployment, female infertility; a selection of expressions used during an improvised football training

Recorded on: 2012-10-17

A selection of 14 traditional songs that are sung during wedding ceremonies

Recorded on: 2012-06-03

Compilation of names of plants located in Gongo

Recorded on: 2013-04-07

Account of how palm leaves are woven and used for traditional house roofing, how houses are built. An account of the ritual of rain-making step by step and offerings.

Recorded on: 2012-10-17

Narration of late President Nyerere as a hero

Recorded on: 2012-06-05


Recorded on: 2013-09-13

Compilation of names of plants located in Matipwili

Recorded on: 2013-04-07

Compilation of names of plants located in Mkoko

Recorded on: 2013-02-04

Compilation of names of plants located in Mkoko

Recorded on: 2012-10-01