Vol 29 No 2 (2020): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Linguistics

Translating Swahili linguistic terminology into Italian

Rosanna Tramutoli
University of Naples “L’Orientale”, Department of Asian, African and Mediterranean Studies
Published June 11, 2020
  • Swahili,
  • Italian,
  • linguistics,
  • linguistic terminology,
  • translation


This article investigates the process of translating Swahili linguistic terminology into Italian as a way to reflect upon the metalinguistic representation of two different language structures. On the one hand, some terms of ancient Greek etymology, such as the English loanwords fonolojia ‘phonology’, fonimu ‘phoneme’, and mofimu ‘morpheme’, can be easily translated into Italian as ‘fonologia’, ‘fonema’, and ‘morfema’; on the other hand, some conceptual correspondences appear more problematic, especially in the field of morphology. There are terms that specifically refer to Bantu linguistic concepts, such as viambishi nyambulishi vya vitenzi ‘verbal extensions’, (it) ‘estensioni verbali’. Moreover, several synonyms that indicate the concept of “structure” (i.e. muundo ‘structure’, uambajengo ‘(syntactic) structure,’ tungo ‘construction’) have different uses according to the linguistic context; thus, I have suggested a translation based on the etymology (Tramutoli, 2018). The study is based on a corpus of approximately 150 linguistic terms mostly collected during Swahili linguistic lectures at the Department of Swahili Studies (TATAKI) at the University of Dar es Salaam.