Kalanga language

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Native toZimbabwe, Botswana
EthnicityKalanga people
Native speakers
338,000 (2012-2015)[1]
Official status
Official language in
 Zimbabwe (both Kalanga and Nambya)
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
kck – Kalanga
nmq – Nambya

Kalanga[pronunciation?], or TjiKalanga (in Zimbabwe), is a Bantu language spoken by the Kalanga people in Botswana and Zimbabwe. It has an extensive phoneme inventory, which includes palatalised, velarised, aspirated and breathy-voiced consonants,[3] as well as whistled sibilants.

Kalanga is recognised as an official language by the Zimbabwean Constitution of 2013 and is taught in schools in areas where its speakers predominate.

Classification and varieties[edit]

Linguists place Kalanga (S.16 in Guthrie's classification) and Nambya (in the Hwange region of Zimbabwe) as the western branch of the Shona group (or Shonic, or Shona-Nyai) group of languages, collectively coded as S.10.

Kalanga has a dialectal variation between its Botswana and Zimbabwean varieties and they use slightly different orthographies. Historically, Wentzel mentioned Kalanga proper in the east and Lilima (Tjililima, Humbe) on the west, as well as varieties that are now rare or extinct: Nyai (Rozvi), Lemba (Remba), Lembethu (Rembethu), Twamamba (Xwamamba), Pfumbi, Jaunda (Jawunda, Jahunda), and †Romwe, †Peri, †Talahundra (Talaunda).[2][4]



Labial Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
plain alveolar plain lab. plain lab. plain lab. plain lab.
Plosive voiceless p () k
voiced b d ɡ ɡʷ
prenasal ᵐb ⁿd ᵑɡ ᵑɡʷ
aspirated t̪ʰ tʰʷ kʰʷ
breathy kʷʱ
ejective ()
Affricate voiceless p͡s t̪͡s̪ t͡ʃ
voiced b͡z d̪͡z̪ d̪͡z̪ʷ d͡ʒ b͡ɡ
prenasal ⁿd͡ʒ
aspirated t̪͡s̪ʰ t̪͡s̪ʰʷ p͡kʰ
breathy t̪͡s̪ʱ t͡ʃʱ
ejective t͡ʃʼ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ ʃʷ (x) ()
voiced v z ʒ ɦ
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ ŋʷ
Trill r
Approximant lateral l
central β̞ j w
  • Phonemes /tʰʷ, p͡s, b͡z, t͡ʃʼ/ occur only as marginal phonemes.
  • Sounds /tʼ, tʷ, x, xʷ/ are sounds that are borrowed from Tswana.[3]


Kalanga has a typical five-vowel system:

Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a


  • Chebanne, A. M. & Rodewald, M. K & Pahlen, K. W. (1995) Ngatikwaleni iKalanga: a manual for writing Kalanga as spoken in Botswana. Gaborone: Botswana Society.
  • Chebanne, Andy & Schmidt, Daniel (2010). "Kalanga: Summary grammar". Cape Town: CASAS monograph 75.
  • Letsholo, R. (2013). "Object markers in Ikalanga". Linguistic Discovery. Dartmouth College.
  • Mathangwane, Joyce T. (1999) Ikalanga phonetics and phonology: a synchronic and diachronic study. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.


  1. ^ "Kalanga". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  2. ^ a b Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  3. ^ a b Mathangwane, Joyce T. (1999). Ikalanga phonetics and phonology: a synchronic and diachronic study. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.
  4. ^ Wentzel, Petrus Johannes (1981). The Relationship between Venda and Western Shona. Ph.D. Thesis. Univ. of South Africa.

External links[edit]