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Encyclopedia > Shona language
Spoken in: Flag of Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
Flag of Mozambique Mozambique
Flag of Zambia Zambia
Flag of Botswana Botswana 
Region: Africa
Total speakers: 7,000,000 
Ranking: 58
Language family: Niger-Congo
      Narrow Bantu
Official status
Official language in: Flag of Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
Regulated by: no official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1: sn
ISO 639-2: sna
ISO 639-3: sna

Shona (or ChiShona) is a Bantu language, native to the Shona people of Zimbabwe and southern Zambia; the term is also used to identify peoples who speak one of the Shona language dialects, namely Zezuru, Karanga, Manyika, Ndau and Korekore. The word "Shona" is derived from the Ndebele word itshonalanga ("where the sun set"). Shona is an official language of Zimbabwe, along with Ndebele and English. Shona speakers comprise more than 80% of Zimbabwe's population and number about 6,225,000 (SIL 1989). Shona is also spoken by a substantial number of people in Mozambique. Other countries that host Shona language speakers are Zambia and Botswana. The total number of Shona speakers is at least 7,000,000 (UBS 1990). Image File history File links Flag_of_Zimbabwe. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Mozambique. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Zambia. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Botswana. ... A world map showing the continent of Africa Africa is the worlds second-largest and second most-populous continent, after Asia. ... This is a list of languages, ordered by the number of native-language speakers, with some data for second-language use. ... A language family is a group of languages related by descent from a common proto-language. ... The Niger-Congo languages constitute one of the worlds major language families, and Africas largest in terms of geographical area, number of speakers, and number of distinct languages. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... In the classification of African languages, Volta-Congo is the major branch (in terms of number of languages) of the Niger-Congo phylum. ... The Benue-Congo group of languages constitutes the largest branch of the Niger-Congo language family, both in terms of sheer number of languages, of which 938 are known (not counting mere dialects), and in terms of speakers, numbering perhaps 550 million. ... In the classification of African languages, Bantoid is a branch of the Benue-Congo subfamily of the Niger-Congo phylum. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Zimbabwe. ... ISO 639-1 is the first part of the ISO 639 international-standard language-code family. ... ISO 639-2 is the second part of the ISO 639 standard, which lists codes for the representation of the names of languages. ... ISO 639-3 is an international standard for language codes. ... The Unicode Standard, Version 5. ... Map showing the approximate distribution of Bantu (light brown) vs. ... Shona (IPA: ) is the name collectively given to several groups of people in Zimbabwe and western Mozambique. ... Sub-dialect of the Shona language. ... The Karanga language was said by ancient Portuguese missionaries to be the language of the Munhumutapas court. ... The Manyika are a Shona sub-tribal grouping with their own language variant, the Manyika language. ... -1... Title page of one of the earliest Sindebele phrase books, published for the use of settlers in Matabeleland. This article relates to the Ndebele language spoken by the Ndebele or Matabele people of Zimbabwe. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... SIL International is a worldwide non-profit evangelical Christian organization whose main purpose is to study, develop and document lesser-known languages in order to expand linguistic knowledge, promote literacy and aid minority language development. ...

Shona is a written standard language with an orthography and grammar that was codified during the early 20th century and fixed in the 1950s. The first novel in Shona, Solomon Mutswairo's Feso, was published in 1957. Shona is taught in the schools but is not the general medium of instruction in other subjects. It has a literature and is described through monolingual and bilingual dictionaries (chiefly Shona - English). Modern Shona is based on the dialect spoken by the Karanga people of Masvingo Province, the region around Great Zimbabwe, 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. The orthography of a language specifies the correct way of using a specific writing system to write the language. ... For the rules of the English language, see English grammar. ... For other uses, see Novel (disambiguation). ... Solomon Mangwiro Mutswairo (b. ... Students in Rome, Italy. ... For other uses, see Dictionary (disambiguation). ... The Karanga language was said by ancient Portuguese missionaries to be the language of the Munhumutapas court. ... Great Zimbabwe is the name given to the remains of stone, sometimes referred to as the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, of an ancient Southern African city, located at in present-day Zimbabwe which was once the centre of a vast empire known as the Munhumutapa Empire (also called Monomotapa or Mwene... Sub-dialect of the Shona language. ...

Shona is a member of the large family of Bantu languages. In Guthrie's zonal classification of Bantu languages, zone S10 designates a dialect continuum of closely related varieties, including Shona proper, Manyika, Nambya, and Ndau, spoken in Zimbabwe and central Mozambique; Tawara and Tewe, found in Mozambique; and Ikalanga of Botswana. Map showing the approximate distribution of Bantu (light brown) vs. ... Malcolm Guthrie (1903-1972), professor of Bantu languages, is known primarily for his classification of Bantu languages (Guthrie 1971). ... A dialect continuum is a range of dialects spoken across a large geographical area, differing only slightly between areas that are geographically close, and gradually decreasing in mutual intelligibility as the distances become greater. ... Sub-dialect of the Shona language. ... Ndau is one of the shona dialects. ... Ikalanga is a Bantu language spoken in Botswana and Zimbabwe by 300 000 people or more. ...

Shona speakers most likely moved into present day Zimbabwe during the great Bantu expansion.

Shona has five vowels — a, e, i, o, u — and a variety of consonants, including the peculiar "whistling sounds" transcribed as "zv" (possibly the most frequent; e.g. zvakanaka, "very well"), "dzv", "sv" and "tsv" . It is a tonal language, though tone is not represented in spelling. Note: This page contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. ... In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a sound in spoken language that is characterized by a closure or stricture of the vocal tract sufficient to cause audible turbulence. ... A Tonal language is a language that uses tone to distinguish words. ...



There are many dialect differences in Shona, but a standardized dialect is recognized. (Webbook) According to information from Ethnologue:

Shona Toko & Hwesa

Karanga (Chikaranga) - spoken in southern Zimbabwe, near Masvingo Duma, Jena, Mhari (Mari), Ngova, Venda, Nyubi, Govera. Masvingo is the capital of the Masvingo Province of Zimbabwe. ...

Zezuru (Chizezuru, Bazezuru, Bazuzura, Mazizuru, Vazezuru, Wazezuru) - spoken in central Zimbabwe, near Harare Shawasha, Gova, Mbire, Tsunga, Kachikwakwa, Harava, Nohwe, Njanja, Nobvu, Kwazwimba (Zimba). Motto: Pamberi Nekushandria Vanhu (Forward with Service to the People) Map of Zimbabwe showing the location of Harare. ...

Korekore (Northern Shona, Goba, Gova, Shangwe) - spoken in northern Zimbabwe, near Mvurwi Budya, Gova, Tande, Tavara, Nyongwe, Pfunde, Shan Gwe,

Ndau (partially intelligible with Shona; Closer to Manyika, and much more divergent from Union Shona ... lexical similarity 74% to 81% between Ndau dialects and Manyika) - spoken in Mozambique Ndau (Cindau) Shanga (Cimashanga, Mashanga, Chichanga, **Chixanga, Xanga, Changa, Senji, Chisenji) Danda (Cidanda, Ndanda, Cindanda, Vadanda, **Watande) Dondo (Cidondo, Wadondo, Chibabava) Gova (Cigova) (Danda and Ndanda may be the same. Gova in Mozambique is closer to Ndau, but in Zambia and Zimbabwe it is closer to Korekore dialect of Shona. Lexical similarity 92% between Danda and Dondo dialects, 85% between Dondo and Shanga)

Manyika (A little more divergent from Shona than Karanga, Zezuru, and Korekore. At least partially intelligible with Shona. Manyika has 74% to 81% lexical similarity with Ndau.) - spoken in eastern Zimbabwe, near Mutare Bocha (Boka), Bunji, Bvumba, Domba, Guta, Here, Hungwe, Jindwi, Karombe, Nyamuka, Nyatwe, Unyama.

It is also recognised in Zimbabwe that Chewa, spoken in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, is a Shona dialect. The similarities are astounding.[1] The Chewa are a people of Central/Southern Africa. ...


Shona's five vowels (a, e, i, o, u) are pronounced as in Italian: ah, eh, ee, oh, oo. Each vowel is pronounced separately even if they fall in succession. For example, "Unoenda kupi?" (Where do you go?) is pronounced: oo noh eh ndah koo pee Note: This page contains phonetic information presented in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) using Unicode. ...

Most consonants are pronounced as in English with several notable exceptions:

  • -d is pronounced by release of pressure when the tongue is pulled away from the roof of the mouth; the English "d" sound is spelled -dh
  • -b is pronounced by implosion (reducing the pressure in the mouth by pressing the lips together); the English "b" (pronounced by increasing the pressure) is spelled -bh
  • -sv is pronounced by making an "ee" mouth but saying "sh"
  • -zv is the voiced equivalent of sv, pronounced by making an "ee" mouth, but saying "zh"
  • -ty is prounounced as if the "y" were a "ch"
  • -dy is prounounced as if the "y" were a "g"

Palatally whistled fricatives

Shona and other languages of Southern and Eastern Africa include whistling sounds (fricatives), unlike most other modern languages where whistling is only used for interjection. There are several hundred whistle languages, most of which are based on tonal languages. Whistling in language dates to about 23000 years ago, when San peoples first dominated the region. It largely survived the Bantu expansion by being adopted by the eventual Bantu conquerors. Note: This page contains phonetic information presented in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) using Unicode. ... An interjection is a part of speech that usually has no grammatical connection with the rest of the sentence and simply expresses emotion on the part of the speaker, although most interjections have clear definitions. ... A Tonal language is a language that uses tone to distinguish words. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with SAN. (Discuss) Look up san, -san in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

In most whistle languages, the whistle retains only the tone of speech, but not articulation or phonation. These are replaced by features such as stress and rhythmical variations. But some languages, like the Shona-derived dialect of the Zezuru people in Mashonaland North, include articulation so that consonants interrupt the flow of the whistle. A similar language is Tsonga used in the highlands in the southern Mozambique. Both languages are based on Shona and share the method of whistling, the similarity of the signals in the Shona linguistic framework, and the functional purpose of the signaling. (By contrast, nothern Ndebele does not have whistling, but has click-sound consonants found in all Nguni languages.) Articulation may refer to several topics: In speech, linguistics, and communication: Topic-focus articulation Articulation score Place of articulation Manner of articulation In music: Musical articulations (staccato, legato, etc) In education: Articulation (education) In sociology: Articulation (sociology) This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that... In phonetics, phonation is the use of the laryngeal system to generate an audible source of acoustic energy, i. ... Sub-dialect of the Shona language. ... Contents // Categories: Bantu languages | Languages of Mozambique | Languages of South Africa | Languages of Swaziland | Languages of Zimbabwe | Language stubs ... There are two versions of Ndebele in South Africa, they both belong to the Nguni group of Bantu Languages. ... For the cattle breed see Nguni cattle. ...

Shona's whistling fricatives ("s" and "z") are written with the Roman alphabet, but sound different from English "s" and "z". For example the -tsv consonant cluster is different from -tsv in English (as in the phrase "its virtue"). Many Shona speakers co-articulate the "v" in -tsv; that is the quality of the "v" adjusts to that of the neighbouring consonants. The whistled fricatives are double labial alveolar fricatives, made with a palatal whistling position. Consonant clusters include: The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world today. ...

  • -sv, e.g. masvosvobwa, "shooting stars"; masvosve, "ants"
  • -tsv, e.g. tsavaira, "sweep" (Standard Shona)
  • -svw, e.g. masvavembasvwi, "schemer" (the Shangwe, Korekore branch of Shona)
  • -zv, e.g. zvizvuvhutswa, "gold nuggets (literal translation) (Tsunga branch of Zezuru)
  • -dzv, e.g. akadzva, "he/she was unsuccesssful"
  • -zvw, e.g. huzvweverere, "emotions" (the Gova, Korekore branch of Shona)
  • -nzv, e.g. nzvenga, "to dodge" (Standard Shona)
  • -zvc — only found in the Ngova, Karanga dialect of Shona, which also has substantial Ndebele influences and so features the dental 'c' click sound, merged with the palatal whistle sounds of Standard Shona. E.g. muzvcazi, "the Milky Way strip" (Karanga)
  • svc — only found in the Ngova, Karanga. E.g., chisvcamba, "tortoise" (Karanga)

Shona whistling recently stirred interest among the Western public and media, due to the different opinions about how to pronounce in English the name of Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe. The Pronunciation Unit recommended the pronunciation "chang-girr-ayi". The Karanga language was said by ancient Portuguese missionaries to be the language of the Munhumutapas court. ... For other uses, see Milky Way (disambiguation). ... Morgan Tsvangirai (Shona IPA: (the s and the v are coärticulated), English ?) born March 10, 1952) is a trade unionist, human rights activist, Democrat and President of the mainstream [1] Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party in Zimbabwe. ... The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is a Zimbabwean political party now split. ...

In foreign popular culture

Mangwanani, the Shona word for "good morning" is the title of a song by the band "Z-trolleee" written to raise money for the charity Comic Relief. The band, based in Leicester, United Kingdom, released the single for Comic Relief Week 2007. The website link is here.[2] The band pronounces the word incorrectly throughout the song. The band Dispatch uses Shona in its song Elias. For the origin of the term, see comic relief. ... A dispatch can be: A report sent to a newspaper by a correspondent. ...


All syllables 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. For the computer operating system, see Syllable (operating system). ...

All verbs end in -a: It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ...

  • 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"


  • Biehler, E. (1950) A Shona dictionary with an outline Shona grammar (revised edition). The Jesuit Fathers.
  • Brauner, Sigmund (1995) A grammatical sketch of Shona : including historical notes. Köln: Rüdiger Koppe.
  • Carter, Hazel (1986) Kuverenga Chishóna : an introductory Shona reader with grammatical sketch (2nd edition). London: SOAS.
  • Doke, Clement M. (1931) Report on the unification of the Shona dialects. Stephen Austin Sons.
  • Mutasa, David (1996) The problems of standardizing spoken dialects: the Shona experience, Language Matters, 27, 79
  • Lafon, Michel (1995), Le shona et les shonas du Zimbabwe, Harmattan éd., Paris (in French)

Clement Martyn Doke (1893-1980) was a South African linguist working mainly on African languages. ...

External links

Shona language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • Ethnologue report on Shona
  • The Shona Podcast - an Englishman and his Zimbabwean wife discuss the Shona language and culture
  • The History of the Shona People.
  • Pan African Localization report on Shona

  Results from FactBites:
African Languages - MSN Encarta (1832 words)
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Bambara, spoken in Mali, is the principal language in this subgroup.
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Shona » www.globat.es (541 words)
Shona (or ChiShona) is a native language of Zimbabwe and southern Zambia; the term is also used to identify those Kintu speaking peoples in Southern Africa who speak one of the Shona languages.The language was originally called Karanga.
Shona is a written standard language with an orthography and grammar that was codified during the early 20th century and fixed in the 1950s.
However, all Shona dialects are officially considered to be of equal significance and are taught in local schools.
  More results at FactBites »



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