The language and its speakers

Community members discuss the specifics of the Luruuli/Lunyara orthography

Information on the language can be found on Glottolog, Ethnologue and Wikipedia.

Luruuli/Lunyara is the native language of the Baruuli/Banyara. It is a Bantu language of the
Niger-Congo language family. Luruuli/Lunyara is spoken in the central region of Uganda.
The Baruuli/Banyara as an ethnic group are estimated to be 160,000 (140,000 Baruuli, 21,000
Banyara (Lewis et al. 2016)). Luruuli/Lunyara is one of the most endangered of Uganda’s
indigenous languages and is categorized as threatened by Lewis et al. (2016). This means that
though the language is still used for face-to-face communication within all generations, it is
quickly losing users. On the one hand, the state of endangerment of this language stems from
the dominance of neighbouring tribes, namely the Baganda, Banyoro and Basoga, and their
languages. On the other hand, like many of Uganda’s minority languages, Luruuli/Lunyara is
still largely oral with very limited written literature. Apart from self-published booklets on
the clan system of Luruuli/Lunyara (Bugurwa, 2008) and the legends collected on Lunyara
(Namyalo 2012), there is no known literature in this language.

 

In appreciation of the challenges of learning in a non-familiar language in the first years of
schooling, the government of Uganda through the Constitution of Uganda (2005 as amended)
allowed Uganda’s indigenous languages to be used as a medium of instruction in schools or
other educational institutions, as well as for legislative, administrative or judicial purposes.
This came in at a time when the literacy levels were dismal (see below). Accordingly, the
National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC) revised the subject-based curriculum into
a theme-based curriculum that is meant to be learner-centred (Kateeba 2009). This
curriculum is to be instructed through local languages (from Primary 1 through Primary 3).
At the time of introducing this language policy in 2006/2007, only dominant languages were
used in schools. However, the practice has since changed: Every language that meets the
requirements, for example by having a functional orthography, a dictionary, and basic
instructional grammar books for beginners, can now be used as a language of instruction in
the early years of primary schooling. As much as we are aware of the drawbacks of this
practice (e.g. the lack of trained language teachers and literature in indigenous languages) the
legislation provides room for language revitalisation. Even the minority languages such as
Luruuli/Lunyara can be used in the early years of education as long as they meet the
requirements of NCDC.