language is spoken in southern Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...
by the Tsonga people, also known as the Shangaan
The Tsonga people inhabit the southern coastal plain of Mozambique, parts of Zimbabwe and Swaziland, and the Limpopo Province of South Africa...
Tsonga belongs to the Bantu
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...
branch of the Niger–Congo languages
The Niger–Congo languages constitute one of the world's major language families, and Africa's largest in terms of geographical area, number of speakers, and number of distinct languages. They may constitute the world's largest language family in terms of distinct languages, although this question...
. The language of the Tsonga people is wrongly called Xichangana (or "Shangaan" by outsiders) because some of the people were under the leadership of Soshangana "Manukusa" (wrongly classified as Zulu but actually Ndwandwe(Nguni/Ngoni), thus Xichangana is a hybrid of Xitsonga and the language of the Ndwandwe(Nguni/Ngoni)). Tsonga has different variants, some of which are considered different languages by some linguists : e.g. Tsonga, Ndawu, Ronga
Ronga is a South-Eastern Bantu language in the Tswa–Ronga family spoken just South of Maputo in Mozambique. It extends a little into South Africa...
Tswa, or XiTswa is a South-Eastern Bantu language in Southern Mozambique. Its closest relatives are Ronga and Tsonga, the three forming the Tswa–Ronga family of languages....
Tsonga is spoken by about 1,972,000 people in South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...
's Limpopo province as well as Gauteng Province and Mpumalanga Province, as well as 1.5 million people in 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...
, and 19,000 people in Swaziland
Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Swaziland , and sometimes called Ngwane or Swatini, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, bordered to the north, south and west by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique...
. There are also 100,000 speakers in 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...
In South Africa most of Vatsonga were concentrated in places like e.g. Nkowankowa, Giyani, Malamulele, N'wamitwa, Muhlava, Elim (Axipilongo, ka Jiwawa) in Limpopo and Bushbuckridge(ka Mpisana) and others in Mpumalanga. There are also large numbers in the Northwest, KwaZulu-Natal(Tembe) and Gauteng provinces. Basically they can be found anywhere in the old Transvaal.
Various dialects of Tsonga are spoken as far north as the Save River in Zimbabwe and as far south as KwaZulu/Natal. While most dialects are mutually intelligible, they do have distinct differences that are geographical as well as based on influence of the colonial era. Tsonga also has two very close relatives: Xironga, which is spoken in and about Maputo
Maputo, also known as Lourenço Marques, is the capital and largest city of Mozambique. It is known as the City of Acacias in reference to acacia trees commonly found along its avenues and the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. It was famous for the inscription "This is Portugal" on the walkway of its...
, Mozambique, and Xitswa, which is spoken around Inhambane
Inhambane, Terra de Boa Gente is a city located in southern Mozambique, lying on Inhambane Bay, 470 km northeast of Maputo. It is the capital of the Inhambane Province and according to the 2008 census has a population of 65,837, growing from the 1997 census of 54,157...
and has a Chihlengwe dialect extending into Zimbabwe.
These dialects and relatives differ in pronunciation. For example, in South African Tsonga the use of the prefix "xi" is pronounced "shi" in Xikwembu (God). In Zimbabwe this prefix is pronounced "chi", as in "Chikwembu" (God). South African Tsonga also uses consonant combinations like "nk", "mp", "ns" as in nkhensa (thank), nyimpi (war), and nsiha (vein). In Zimbabwe the equivalents are khesa, nyipi, and siha.
All dialects have been influenced to different degrees by Zulu
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...
and, in Zimbabwe, by Ndebele
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 so Tsonga now contains click consonants. These words are not indigenous to the language but are understood when used. Unlike the case in Zulu and Ndebele, where there are distinct clicks, in Tsonga one need only make a clicking sound for any click word adopted. Examples of imported click words are:
ngqondo (mind), gqoka (wear/dress),guqa (kneel), riqingo (phone), qiqi (earing), qamba (compose) Mugqivela (Saturday).
Tsonga has been characterized by some linguists as a "whistling language" similar to Shona in that it contains certain sounds such as "sw/sv", tsw/tsv", "dzw/dzv", sounds which occur throughout the language.
Tsonga has a distinction between modal
Modal voice is the vocal register used most frequently in speech and singing in most languages. It is also the term used in linguistics for the most common phonation of vowels...
and breathy voice
Breathy voice is a phonation in which the vocal cords vibrate, as they do in normal voicing, but are held further apart, so that a larger volume of air escapes between them. This produces an audible noise...
d consonants: /bʱ, bvʱ, vʱ, dʱ, ɖʐʱ, dʒʱ, ɡʱ/ vs /b, bv, v, d, ɖʐ, dʒ, ɡ/ among the obstruents (the one exception being /ɮ/), and /m̤, n̤, ŋ̈, r̤, ȷ̈, w̤/ vs /m, n, ŋ, r, j, w/ among the sonorants (the one exception being /ɲ/).
Unlike some of the Nguni languages, Tsonga has very few words with clicks
Clicks are speech sounds found as consonants in many languages of southern Africa, and in three languages of East Africa. Examples of these sounds familiar to English speakers are the tsk! tsk! or tut-tut used to express disapproval or pity, the tchick! used to spur on a horse, and the...
, and these vary in place between dental
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...
The alveolar or postalveolar clicks are a family of click consonants found only in Africa and in the Damin ritual jargon of Australia.The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is...
The grammar is generally typical of Bantu languages with a subject–object–verb order
| Ndza ku rhandza
|| I love you
| Wa ndzi rhandza
|| you love me
| Ha ku tiva
|| we know you
| Va ndzi tihva
|| they know me
1. Past Tense
The present tense is formed by simply using the personal pronoun along with the verb
Ndzi lava Mali – i want money,
Hi tirha siku hinkwaro – we work all day,
Mi(u) lava mani? – Who are you looking for?
U kota ku famba – S/He know how to walk.
Generally, to indicate ongoing actions in the present one takes the personal pronoun, drops the 'i' and adds 'a'
Ndzi nghena (e)ndlwini – I am entering the house,
Ha tirha sweswi – We are working right now,
Ma hemba – you(pl.) are lying,
Wa hemba – you(sing.) are lying,
Wa hemba – s/he is lying,
- with the plural 'va'(they) there is no difference. Thus 'va hemba' = they lie AND they are lying.
This is for in one of three ways, depending on the word.
(i) Generally, one drops the 'a' from the verb and adds the prefix '-ile'
Ndzi nghenile ndlwini – I entered the house,
Hi tirhile siku hinkwaro – We worked all day,
U hembile – You lied,
U hembile – S/he lied,
Va hembile – they lied.
(ii)With verbs that end with -ala, in the past change to -ele or -ale
ku rivala – to forget,
Ndzi rivale – I Forgot, U rivale – you forgot, Va rivale – they forgot,
Ku nyamalala – to disappear,
U nyamalele – S/he – disappeared,
- words used to describe a state of being also use the past tense
ku karhala – to be tired,
Ndzi karhele – I am tired, U karhele – s/he is tired, Va karhele – They are tired.
(iii) In many cases merely changing the last 'a' in the verb to an 'e' indicates past action
Ku fika – to arrive,
U fike tolo – S/he arrived yesterday,
Ndzi fike tolo – i arrived yesterday,
Hi tirhe siku hinkwaro – we worked all day,
Ndzi nghene (e)ndlwini – I entered the house.
This is formed by the adding 'ta' in between the personal pronoun and the verb
Ndzi ta nghena endlwini – i will enter the house,
Hi ta tirha siku hinkwaro – we will work all day,
Va ta tirha siku hinkwaro – they will work all day,
Mi ta tirha siku hinkwaro – you(pl.) will work all day.
Tsonga has several classes, much like other Bantu languages, which are learned through memorization mostly. These are:
|| ku tshemba/trust
|| ku dya/ to eat
|| ku biha/ugliness
|| vululami – righteousness
These are very similar to many other Bantu languages with a few variations
| Ni(informal spoken)/Ndzi(formal) Mina
|| I Me
|| You You
|| He/She Him/Her
| Hi Hina
|| We Us
| Mi N'wina
|| You(Plural) You(plural)
| Va Vona
|| They They
E.g. tana haleno
– come here
All verbs have the prefix "ku" and end with an 'a' in the infinitive
In grammar, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. In the usual description of English, the infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to: therefore, do and to do, be and to be, and so on are infinitives...
, with a couple of exceptions.
| ku chava
|| 2 fear
| ku tsaka
|| 2be happy
| ku rhandza
|| to love
The main exception to this is the verb "ku ri" – "to say" It corresponds to "ti" in many other bantu languages. Examples of its usage include;
u ri yini? – what do you say?(what are you saying?),
ndzi ri ka n'wina – i say to you all.
In many instances the "ri" is often omitted and thus "ku" on its own can also me "say"
Va ri ndza penga – they say i'm crazy,
Va ri yini? – what do they say?(what are they saying?).
| Khume (na) n'we / Khume-n'we
| Khume (na) mbirhi / Khume-mbirhi
| Khume (na) nharhu / Khume-nharhu
| Makhume mambhirhi / Makume-mbirhi
| Makhume manharhu / Makume-nharhu
| Mune wa makhume
| Tlhanu wa makhume
Months of the Year
XiTsonga, like many other African languages, have been influenced by various European colonial languages. XiTsonga includes words borrowed from English
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...
Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, spoken natively in South Africa and Namibia. It is a daughter language of Dutch, originating in its 17th century dialects, collectively referred to as Cape Dutch .Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch; see , , , , , .Afrikaans was historically called Cape...
, and Portuguese
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...
. Also, because of the influence of other more dominant neighbouring languages, XiTsonga has taken some words, especially click words, from isiZulu actually its (Nguni/ngoni).
Words Borrowed from English
- Thelevhixini – television
- Rhediyo – Radio
- xitulu – Chair(Stool)
- Wachi – watch(to tell time)
- Movha – car(automobil)
- Sokisi – socks
- Gilazi – glass
- tliloko – clock
- mhasipala – municipal
- makhiya – keys
Words Borrowed from Afrikaans
- lekere – sweets(lekkers)
- fasitere – window(venster)
- lepula – spoon(lepel)
- kereke – church(kerk)
- buruku – trousers(broek)
- dhomu – idiot(dom)
- tafula – table(tafel)
- xipuku – ghost(spook)
Words Borrowed from Zulu:
- (ri)nqingo – phone
- kuqonda – to head towards
- ku gcina – to end
- kuzama – to try
Tsonga uses the Latin alphabet or perhaps it is Latin that uses the Tsonga Alphabet. However, certain sounds are spelled using a combination of letters, which either do not exist in the European colonial language, or may be meant to distinguish the language somewhat.
An example of this is the letter "x" taken from Portuguese orthography, which is pronounced as the English "sh". Therefore the following words, -shusha, shikolo, shilo, are written in Tsonga as -xuxa, xikolo, and xilo.
Other spelling differences include the letter "c" which equates to the sound of the English "ch". However, where the emphasis of a word is on the following vowel the letter is hardened by adding "h" this the Tsonga word -chava(fear)
A sound equivalent to the Welsh "ll" is written "hl" in Tsonga,
e.g. -hlangana(meet), -hlasela(attack), -hleka(laugh)
A whistling sound common in the language is written "sw" or "sv" in Zimbabwean chishona. This sound actually belongs to the "x-sw" class within the language. E.g.:
- xilo(thing) – swilo(things)
- xikolo(school) – swikolo(schools)
- Xikwembu(God) – swikwembu(gods)
Another whistling sound is spelled "dy" but has no English equivalent, the closest being the "dr" sound in the English word "drive"
An important note is that Tsonga has been standardized as a written language. However, due to the fairly recent nature of that standardization there still exist many dialects within the language that may not pronounce words as written. For example, the Tsonga bible uses the word "byela"(tell), pronounced bwe-la, however a large group of speakers would say "dzvela/dyela" instead.
The Lord's Prayer
The Lord's Prayer is a central prayer in Christianity. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it appears in two forms: in the Gospel of Matthew as part of the discourse on ostentation in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Gospel of Luke, which records Jesus being approached by "one of his...
as written in the xiTsonga Bible (Bibele)
Tata wa hina la nge tilweni,
vito ra wena a ri hlawuriwe;
a ku te ku fuma ka wena;
ku rhandza ka wena a ku endliwe
misaveni, tanihi loko ku endliwa tilweni
u hi nyika namuntlha vuswa bya hina
bya siku rin'wana ni rin'wana;
u hi rivalela swidyoho swa hina,
tanihi loko na hina hi rivalela lava
hi dyohelaka; u nga hi yisi emiringweni
kambe u hi ponisa eka Lowo biha,
[hikuva ku fuma, ni matimba, no ku twala i swa wena
hi masiku ni masiku. Amen]
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