The Maa or Maasai language is a member of the Nilotic group of the Eastern Sudanic branch of the Nilo-Saharan family. It is closely related to the other Maa languages, particularly to Samburu and Parakuyo, and more distantly to the Nuer language. Maa is spoken by the Maasai people of Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania. The total number of speakers is estimated to be 1,300,000.
Maa is a tonal language. It has two levels of tone, high and low. The high tones are marked with an acute accent, and the low tones are marked with a grave accent. There are three vowel qualities, which are distinguished by length: short, long, and overlong. The language has a subject–object–verb word order.
Nouns are inflected for nine classes, which are based on gender and animacy. The classes are: human male (I), human female (II), inanimate objects (III), animals (IV), plants (V), liquids (VI), small objects (VII), large objects (VIII), and abstract concepts (IX). There are also plural forms for each class.
Verbs are inflected for person, number, and tense. There are three tenses: present, past, and future. The present tense is used for both habitual and momentary actions. The past tense is used for completed actions. The future tense is used for future actions. There are also two moods: indicative and imperative.
The Maa language has a rich oral tradition. The Maasai people have many proverbs and folktales. The Maa language is also used in rituals and ceremonies.