The difference between Ateso and Karimojong  languages

8 Jan 2019 Igloos

Ateso/ teso language and Karimojong / Ngakarimojong look similar but different. It is worthy deciphering the difference between Ateso and Karimojong languages . Understanding the difference between Ateso and Karimojong languages is necessary for everyone in the translation industry and to the historians. It is important to note that there is an underlying difference between the two languages though they are mutually intelligible .

Karimojong is an Eastern Nilotic language natively spoken by the Karimojong people of North eastern Uganda. It is mostly spoken in Karimoja sub- region in the districts of Kotido, Moroto and among others by atleast 470,000 people in the country.

Ateso like Karimojong is an Eastern Nilotic language natively spoken by the Iteso people of Uganda and Kenya who are believed to have migrated from Abyssinia (present Ethiopia) among the Habesha people of the Solomonid Dynasty of the present day Ethiopia and moved western direction and later settled in western Kenya and Eastern Uganda.

The language is part of the Turkana cluster and it is spoken by about 1.57 million people in Uganda and 279,000 in Kenya as per 2002 population census. Additionally, the language is widely spoken in Teso Sub-region in districts of Kumi, Soroti, Kaberamaido, Serere, Amuria, Bukedia, Tororo, Katakwi, Ngora, Bugiri, Pallisa , Busia  and in western  Kenya.

It is also important to point out that these two languages being of the same family, are mutually intelligible and also related to languages like; Dodoth and  Jiey in Uganda, Turkana and Tesyo of Kenya, and Jiye and Toposa in South Sudan. So the difference between Ateso and Karimojong is slighter and can be stretched way back in history of migration and settlement of Iteso and the Karimojong people.

Historically, the Iteso and Karimojong during migration and settlement moved together as a single group (Jie). However in the process, they split into several groups of which one moved to Kenya and gave birth to Kalenjin and Maasai people in Kenya whereas others moved west words and dispersed into several groups of Iteso, Dodoth, Jie and Kumam of Uganda, Turkana of Kenya, and Toposa and Jiye of South Sudan. It is believed that some of them lagged behind and settled while others further moved to western direction. Those who lagged behind were named ‘Ikar  imojong’ meaning ‘the elders can move no further’ who later came to be known as Karimojong and spoke language called Karimojong, whereas those who continued further to southern and western directions were named ‘Atesina’ meaning graves and this group is the present day Iteso who speak Ateso / Teso.

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