Shona language

Shona language

Overview
Shona is a Bantu language
Bantu languages
The Bantu languages constitute a traditional sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages...

, native to the Shona people
Shona people
Shona is the name collectively given to two groups of people in the east and southwest of Zimbabwe, north eastern Botswana and southern Mozambique.-Shona Regional Classification:...

 of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

 and southern Zambia
Zambia
Zambia , officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west....

; the term is also used to identify peoples who speak one of the Shona language dialects: Zezuru, Karanga
Karanga
Karanga may refer to:* Karanga , Mangaia, Cook Islands* Karanga , an element of Māori cultural protocol, the calling of visitors onto a marae.* Ikalanga language* "Te Karanga", a song by Rhian Sheehan* a clan of the Shona people...

, Manyika
Manyika
The Manyika are a Shona tribe with their own dialect, Manyika. The majority of Manyika come from the eastern region of Zimbabwe. The language is widely spoken in Manicaland Province and in certain areas of Manica Province in neighbouring Mozambique. The Manica dialect somewhat varies from region to...

, Ndau
Ndau
The Ndau is an ethnic group which inhabits the Zambezi valley, in central Mozambique all the way to the coast, and eastern Zimbabwe, south of Chipinge and Chimanimani....

 and Korekore. (Some researchers include Kalanga: others recognise Kalanga as a distinct language in its own right.) Shona is a principal language of Zimbabwe, along with Ndebele
Northern Ndebele language
The Northern Ndebele language, isiNdebele, or Ndebele is an African language belonging to the Nguni group of Bantu languages, and spoken by the Ndebele or Matabele people of Zimbabwe. It is commonly known as Sindebele....

 and the official business language, English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. Shona is spoken by a large percentage of the people in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

.
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Encyclopedia
Shona is a Bantu language
Bantu languages
The Bantu languages constitute a traditional sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages...

, native to the Shona people
Shona people
Shona is the name collectively given to two groups of people in the east and southwest of Zimbabwe, north eastern Botswana and southern Mozambique.-Shona Regional Classification:...

 of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

 and southern Zambia
Zambia
Zambia , officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west....

; the term is also used to identify peoples who speak one of the Shona language dialects: Zezuru, Karanga
Karanga
Karanga may refer to:* Karanga , Mangaia, Cook Islands* Karanga , an element of Māori cultural protocol, the calling of visitors onto a marae.* Ikalanga language* "Te Karanga", a song by Rhian Sheehan* a clan of the Shona people...

, Manyika
Manyika
The Manyika are a Shona tribe with their own dialect, Manyika. The majority of Manyika come from the eastern region of Zimbabwe. The language is widely spoken in Manicaland Province and in certain areas of Manica Province in neighbouring Mozambique. The Manica dialect somewhat varies from region to...

, Ndau
Ndau
The Ndau is an ethnic group which inhabits the Zambezi valley, in central Mozambique all the way to the coast, and eastern Zimbabwe, south of Chipinge and Chimanimani....

 and Korekore. (Some researchers include Kalanga: others recognise Kalanga as a distinct language in its own right.) Shona is a principal language of Zimbabwe, along with Ndebele
Northern Ndebele language
The Northern Ndebele language, isiNdebele, or Ndebele is an African language belonging to the Nguni group of Bantu languages, and spoken by the Ndebele or Matabele people of Zimbabwe. It is commonly known as Sindebele....

 and the official business language, English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. Shona is spoken by a large percentage of the people in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

. Other countries that host Shona language speakers are Zambia
Zambia
Zambia , officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west....

 and Botswana
Botswana
Botswana, officially the Republic of Botswana , is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. The citizens are referred to as "Batswana" . Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966...

 and Mozambique
Mozambique
Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique , is a country in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest...

.

Shona is the Bantu language
Bantu languages
The Bantu languages constitute a traditional sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages...

 most widely spoken as a native language. According to Ethnologue, Shona comprising the Karanga, Zezuru, and Korekore dialects, is spoken by about 10.8 million people. Manyika
Manyika language
The Manyika language is a dialect of the Shona language.Largely spoken by the Manyika people in the eastern part of Zimbabwe and across the border in Mozambique it encompasses ChiBocha, ChiNdau, ChiUngwe and ChiManyika from which the broad Manyika Language gets its name from.This ChiManyika spoken...

 and Ndau
Ndau language
Ndau is one of the Shona dialects. It is spoken by people from the region of Chipinge...

 dialects of Shona, listed separately by Ethnologue, and are spoken by 1,025,000 and 2,380,000 people, respectively. The total figure of Shona speakers is then about 14.2 million people. Zulu
Zulu language
Zulu is the language of the Zulu people with about 10 million speakers, the vast majority of whom live in South Africa. Zulu is the most widely spoken home language in South Africa as well as being understood by over 50% of the population...

 is the second most widely spoken Bantu language
Bantu languages
The Bantu languages constitute a traditional sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages...

 with 10.3 million speakers according to Ethnologue.

Shona is a written standard language with an orthography
Orthography
The orthography of a language specifies a standardized way of using a specific writing system to write the language. Where more than one writing system is used for a language, for example Kurdish, Uyghur, Serbian or Inuktitut, there can be more than one orthography...

 and grammar
Grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

 that was codified during the early 20th century and fixed in the 1950s. The first novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 in Shona, Solomon Mutswairo
Solomon Mutswairo
Solomon Mangwiro Mutswairo also spelt Mutsvairo, is a Zimbabwean novelist and poet. A member of the Zezuru people of central Zimbabwe, Mutswairo wrote the first novel in the Shona language, Feso....

's Feso, was published in 1957. Shona is taught in the school
School
A school is an institution designed for the teaching of students under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools...

s but is not the general medium of instruction in other subjects. It has a literature and is described through monolingual and bilingual dictionaries
Dictionary
A dictionary is a collection of words in one or more specific languages, often listed alphabetically, with usage information, definitions, etymologies, phonetics, pronunciations, and other information; or a book of words in one language with their equivalents in another, also known as a lexicon...

 (chiefly Shona – English). Modern Shona is based on the dialect spoken by the Karanga
Karanga
Karanga may refer to:* Karanga , Mangaia, Cook Islands* Karanga , an element of Māori cultural protocol, the calling of visitors onto a marae.* Ikalanga language* "Te Karanga", a song by Rhian Sheehan* a clan of the Shona people...

 people of Masvingo Province, the region around Great Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe is a ruined city that was once the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, which existed from 1100 to 1450 C.E. during the country’s Late Iron Age. The monument, which first began to be constructed in the 11th century and which continued to be built until the 14th century, spanned an...

, and Zezuru people of central and northern Zimbabwe. However, all Shona dialects are officially considered to be of equal significance and are taught in local schools.

Shona is a member of the large family of Bantu languages
Bantu languages
The Bantu languages constitute a traditional sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages...

. In Guthrie's
Malcolm Guthrie
Malcolm Guthrie , professor of Bantu languages, is known primarily for his classification of Bantu languages...

 zonal classification of Bantu languages, zone S10 designates a dialect continuum
Dialect continuum
A dialect continuum, or dialect area, was defined by Leonard Bloomfield as a range of dialects spoken across some geographical area that differ only slightly between neighboring areas, but as one travels in any direction, these differences accumulate such that speakers from opposite ends of the...

 of closely related varieties, including Shona proper, Manyika
Manyika language
The Manyika language is a dialect of the Shona language.Largely spoken by the Manyika people in the eastern part of Zimbabwe and across the border in Mozambique it encompasses ChiBocha, ChiNdau, ChiUngwe and ChiManyika from which the broad Manyika Language gets its name from.This ChiManyika spoken...

, Nambya, and Ndau
Ndau language
Ndau is one of the Shona dialects. It is spoken by people from the region of Chipinge...

, spoken in Zimbabwe and central Mozambique; Tawara and Tewe, found in Mozambique; and Ikalanga
Ikalanga language
The Kalanga language, or Ikalanga/TjiKalanaga, is a Bantu language spoken by the Kalanga people, 150,000 in Botswana and 700,000 in Zimbabwe . It is a Bantu language known for its extensive phoneme inventory, which includes palatalized, velarized, aspirated, and breathy voiced consonants...

 of Botswana and Western Zimbabwe.

Shona speakers most likely moved into present day Zimbabwe from the Mapungubwe and K2 communities in Limpopo South Africa before the invasion of the English settlers. A common misconception is that the speakers of the Karanga dialect were absorbed into the Ndebele culture and language turning them into Kalanga. This misconception is a direct result of the political bias in the national curriculum framework of Zimbabwe. The Kalanga language is widely spoken in Botswana where the Ndebele were never present. The Kalanga language is thought to have been the language used by the Mapungubweans (Department of Archeology Witts University). If this is accurate it follows that the Karanga dialect of Shona is a derivative of Kalanga. Karanga is closer to Kalanga than the rest of the aforementioned dialects. Karanga and Kalanga are both closer to Venda than the other Shona dialects.

Dialects


There are many dialect differences in Shona, but a standardized dialect is recognized. According to information from Ethnologue (when excluding Kalanga):
  • Hwesa dialect

  • Karanga dialect (Chikaranga). Spoken in southern Zimbabwe, near Masvingo
    Masvingo
    Masvingo is a town in south-eastern Zimbabwe and the capital of Masvingo Province. The town is close to Great Zimbabwe, the national monument from which the country takes its name.- History :...

    .

Subdialects Duma, Jena, Mhari (Mari), Ngova, Venda (not the Venda language
Venda language
Venda, also known as or , is a Bantu language and an official language of South Africa. The majority of Venda speakers live in the northern part of South Africa's Limpopo Province, but about 10% of speakers live in Zimbabwe. The Venda language is related to Kalanga which is spoken in Botswana...

), Nyubi, Govera.
  • Zezuru dialect (Chizezuru, Bazezuru, Bazuzura, Mazizuru, Vazezuru, Wazezuru). Spoken in Mashonaland
    Mashonaland
    Mashonaland is a region in northern Zimbabwe. It is the home of the Shona people.Currently, Mashonaland is divided into three provinces, with a total population of about 3 million:* Mashonaland West* Mashonaland Central* Mashonaland East...

     and central Zimbabwe, near Harare
    Harare
    Harare before 1982 known as Salisbury) is the largest city and capital of Zimbabwe. It has an estimated population of 1,600,000, with 2,800,000 in its metropolitan area . Administratively, Harare is an independent city equivalent to a province. It is Zimbabwe's largest city and its...

    . The standard language.

Subdialects Shawasha, Gova, Mbire, Tsunga, Kachikwakwa, Harava, Nohwe, Njanja, Nobvu, Kwazvimba (Zimba).
  • Korekore dialect (Northern Shona, Goba, Gova, Shangwe). Spoken in northern Zimbabwe, near Mvurwi.

Subdialects: Budya, Gova, Tande, Tavara, Nyongwe, Pfunde, Shan Gwe.

Languages with partial intelligibility with Shona, of which the speakers are considered to be ethnically Shona, are the Ndau language
Ndau language
Ndau is one of the Shona dialects. It is spoken by people from the region of Chipinge...

, spoken in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and the Manyika language
Manyika language
The Manyika language is a dialect of the Shona language.Largely spoken by the Manyika people in the eastern part of Zimbabwe and across the border in Mozambique it encompasses ChiBocha, ChiNdau, ChiUngwe and ChiManyika from which the broad Manyika Language gets its name from.This ChiManyika spoken...

, spoken in eastern Zimbabwe, near Mutare. Ndau literacy material has been introduced into primary schools.

Phonology and alphabet



All syllable
Syllable
A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus with optional initial and final margins .Syllables are often considered the phonological "building...

s in Shona end in a vowel. Consonants always belong to the next syllable. For example, mangwanani ("morning") is separated like this: ma/ngwa/na/ni; Zimbabwe is Zi/mba/bwe.

All verb
Verb
A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...

s end in -a:
  • kuda – "to like, love, want"
  • kuenda – "to go"
  • kusvika – "to arrive"
  • kudya – "to eat"
  • kutamba – "to dance or play"
  • kurara – "to sleep" (kuvata)
  • kudzoka – "to come back"
  • kuseka – "to laugh"
  • kuchema – "to cry"


  • Shona's five vowels (a, e, i, o, u) are pronounced as in Spanish: a, e, i, o, u. Each vowel is pronounced separately even if they fall in succession. For example, "Unoenda kupi?" (Where do you go?) is pronounced [u.no.e.nda ku.pi].

    The letters of the alphabet are,
    LetterIPA
    a /a/
    b /ɓ/
    bh /b/
    ch /tʃ/
    d /ɗ/
    dh /d/
    dy /dʒɡ/
    dzv /dz͎/
    e /e/
    f /f/
    g /ɡ/
    h /h/
    i /i/
    j /dʒ/
    k /k/
    m /m/
    mh /ʔ/
    n’ /ŋ/
    n /n/
    o /o/
    p /p/
    r /r/
    sh /ʃ/
    sv /s͎ ~ sɸ/
    svw /s͎w/
    sw /sw ~ skw/
    t /t/
    tsv /ts͎/
    ty /tʃk/
    u /u/
    v /ʋ/
    vh /v/
    w /w/
    y /j/
    z /z/
    zh /ʒ/
    zv /z͎ ~ zβ/
    zvw /z͎w/
    zw /zw ~ zɡw/


    The digraphs ps and bz are pronounced /ps͎/ and /bz͎/, and mbw is /mbɡ/.

    Whistled sibilants



    Shona and other languages of Southern and Eastern Africa include whistling sounds, unlike most other languages where whistling signals a speech disorder. (This should not be confused with whistled speech.)

    Shona's whistled sibilants are the fricatives "sv" and "zv" and the affricates "tsv" and "dzv".
    Sound example translation notes
    sv masvosvobwa "shooting stars"
    masvosve "ants"
    tsv tsvaira "sweep" (Standard Shona)
    svw masvavembasvwi "schemer" (Shangwe, Korekore dialect)
    zv zvizvuvhutswa "gold nuggets" (Tsunga, Zezuru dialect)
    dzv akadzva "he/she was unsuccessful"
    zvw huzvweverere "emotions" (Gova, Korekore dialect)
    nzv nzvenga "to dodge" (Standard Shona)
    zvc muzvcazi "the Milky Way
    Milky Way
    The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Solar System. This name derives from its appearance as a dim un-resolved "milky" glowing band arching across the night sky...

    "
    Dental click
    Dental click
    Dental clicks are a family of click consonants found, as constituents of words, only in Africa and in the Damin ritual jargon of Australia. The tut-tut! or tsk! tsk! sound used to express disapproval or pity is a dental click, although it isn't a speech sound in that context.The symbol in the...

    s. Only found in Ngova, Karanga dialect, which has
    substantial Ndebele influences, including the dental click ("c").
    svc chisvcamba "tortoise"

    Whistled sibilants stirred interest among the Western public and media in 2006, due to questions about how to pronounce the name of Morgan Tsvangirai
    Morgan Tsvangirai
    Morgan Richard Tsvangirai is the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. He is the President of the Movement for Democratic Change - Tsvangirai and a key figure in the opposition to President Robert Mugabe. Tsvangirai was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe on 11 February 2009...

    , the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai
    Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai
    The Movement for Democratic Change Zimbabwe is a political party and the largest party in the House of Assembly of Zimbabwe. It is the main formation formed from the split of the original Movement for Democratic Change in 2005.-Foundation:...

     in Zimbabwe. The BBC Pronunciation Unit recommended the pronunciation "chang-girr-ayi".

    External links