|Native to||Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe|
|12 million (2007)|
|Latin (Chewa alphabet)
Official language in
Chewa, also known as Nyanja, is a language of the Bantu language family. The noun class prefix chi- is used for languages, so the language is also known as Chichewa and Chinyanja (spelled Cinyanja in Zambia), and locally Nyasa in Mozambique.
Chewa is the national language of Malawi. It is also one of the seven official African languages of Zambia, where it is spoken mostly in the Eastern Province. It is also spoken in Mozambique, especially in the provinces of Tete and Niassa, as well as in Zimbabwe where, according to some estimates, it ranks as the third-most widely used local language, after Shona and Northern Ndebele. It was one of the 55 languages featured on the Voyager.
|(no estimate available)|
|ISO 639-3||None (
An urban variety of Nyanja, sometimes called Town Nyanja, is the lingua franca of the Zambian capital Lusaka and is widely spoken as a second language throughout Zambia. This is a distinctive Nyanja dialect with some features of Nsenga, although the language also incorporates large numbers of English-derived words, as well as showing influence from other Zambian languages such as Bemba. Town Nyanja has no official status, and the presence of large numbers of loanwords and colloquial expressions has given rise to the misconception that it is an unstructured mixture of languages or a form of slang.
The fact that the standard Nyanja used in schools differs dramatically from the variety actually spoken in Lusaka has been identified as a barrier to the acquisition of literacy among Zambian children. iSchool.zm, which develops online educational content in Zambian languages, has begun making 'Lusaka Nyanja' available as a separate language of instruction after finding that schoolchildren in Lusaka do not understand standard Nyanja.
Chinyanja has its origin in the Eastern Province of Zambia from the 15th century to the 18th century. The language remained dominant despite the breakup of the empire and the Nguni invasions and was adopted by Christian missionaries at the beginning of the colonial period.
The first grammar, A grammar of the Chinyanja language as spoken at Lake Nyasa with Chinyanja–English and English–Chinyanja vocabulary, was written by Alexander in 1880 and partial translations of the Bible were made at the end of 19th century. Further early grammars and vocabularies include A vocabulary of English–Chinyanja and Chinyanja–English: as spoken at Likoma, Lake Nyasa and A grammar of Chinyanja, a language spoken in British Central Africa, on and near the shores of Lake Nyasa, by George Henry (1891). The whole Bible was translated by William Percival Johnson and published as Buku Lopatulika ndilo Mau a Mulungu in 1912.
A strong historical link of the Nyanja, Bemba and Yao people to the Shona Empire, who can point their earlier origins to Mashonaland, proves linguistically evident today. The ancient Shonas who temporarily dwelt in Malambo, a place in the DRC, eventually shifted into northern Zambia, and then south and east into the highlands of Malawi.
Spoken and written language
The letter "R" does not articulate clearly in the spoken form of the language. For example bwera (come) is pronounced "bwela". Thus there is a kind of disparity between written grammar and the spoken word.
|English||Chewa (Malawi)||Town Nyanja (Lusaka)|
|How are you?||Muli tyani?||Muli bwanji?|
|I'm fine||Ndili luweme||Nili bwino / Nili mushe|
|What's your name?||Dzina lanu ndani?||Zina yanu ndimwe bandani?|
|My name is...||Dzina langa ndine...||Zina yanga ndine...|
|How many children do you have?||Muli ndi ana angati?||Muli na bana bangati?|
|I have two children||Ndili ndi ana awiri||Nili na bana babili|
|How much is it?||Ndi zingati?||Ni zingati?|
|How are you?||Mukuchita bwanji?||Muli bwanji?|
|See you tomorrow||Tidzaonana mawa||Tizaonana mailo|
- Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Nyanja". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
- cf. Kiswahili for the Swahili language.
- Williams, E (1998). Investigating bilingual literacy: Evidence from Malawi and Zambia (Education Research Paper No. 24). Department for International Development.
- Woodward, M. E. 1895.
- Henry, George. 1891.
- The Umca in Malawi, p 126, James Tengatenga, 2010: "Two important pieces of work have been accomplished during these later years. First, the completion by Archdeacon Johnson of the Bible in Chinyanja, and secondly, the completed Chinyanja prayer book in 1908."
- Paas, Steven, 2012. 3rd edition. Dictionary / Mtanthauziramawu. English – Chichewa / Chinyanja // Chichewa / Chinyanja – English. VTR Publications. ISBN 978-3-941750-87-6
- Mchombo, Sam, 2004. The Syntax of Chichewa. Cambridge Syntax Guides
- Hetherwick, Alexander (1907). A Practical Manual of the Nyanja Language ... Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
- Gray, Andrew; Lubasi, Brighton; Bwalya, Phallen (2013). Town Nyanja: a learner's guide to Zambia's emerging national language.
- Henry, George, 1904. A grammar of Chinyanja, a language spoken in British Central Africa, on and near the shores of Lake Nyasa.
- Laws, Robert (1894). An English–Nyanja dictionary of the Nyanja language spoken in British Central Africa. J. Thin. pp. 1–. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
- Rebman, John; Church Missionary Society (1877). Dictionary of the Kiniassa language. Gregg. pp. 65–. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
- Riddel, Alexander (1880). A Grammar of the Chinyanja Language as Spoken at Lake Nyassa: With Chinyanja–English and English–Chinyanja Vocabularies. J. Maclaren & Son. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
- Woodward, M. E., 1895. A vocabulary of English–Chinyanja and Chinyanja–English as spoken at Likoma, Lake Nyasa. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
- Missionários da Companhia de Jesus 1963. Dicionário Cinyanja–Português. Junta de Investigaçôes do Ultramar.
|Nyanja edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Nyanja phrasebook.|
- Chewa language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- Chichewa at Omniglot
- English / Chichewa (Nyanja) Online Dictionary (mobile)
- Chewa Dictionary from Webster's Dictionary
- Chichewa Home Page
- Information on the Chichewa translation of the Holy Bible Includes the Chichewa translation of John 1:1–10.
- PanAfrican L10n wiki page on Chewa/Nyanja
- Online English–Chichewa Dictionary
- USA Foreign Service Institute Chinyanja basic course
- Adaptation of English loanwords in Chichewa
- Willie T. Zingani, Idzani Muone, Lubuto Library Special Collections, accessed May 3, 2014.
- OLAC resources in and about the Nyanja language