Maa (Maasai)

The Maa (Maasai) language is an Eastern Nilotic language. It is spoken in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania in the Great Lakes region of East Africa. Approximately 1 million people total speak Maa. Maa is a language group with several varieties. An estimated 500,000 Samburu, Camus, and Maasai people in Kenya speak Maa as well as another 500,000 Arusha, Kisonko, Maasai, and Ilparakuyo people in Tanzania. Maa is spoken by nomadic pastoralists of East Africa who (historically and currently) engage in specialized animal husbandry as their primary livelihood. Maasai people have patrilineal clans, and people’s subjectivities within the community are understood by themselves and others through an age-sets system. People move through the various sets based on age and initiation ceremonies. Each age transition comes with new responsibilities, possibilities, and expectations. For example, a boy becomes a man (junior warrior) through circumcision. Once a boy is a junior warrior, he is more respected, allowed to be married, and takes on other community responsibilities. Junior warriors transition to senior warriors and then to elders in time.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.