Nyungwe language

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Native to Mozambique
Native speakers
440,000 (2006)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 nyu
Glottolog nyun1248[2]

Nyungwe (Cinyungwe or Nhungue) is a Bantu language of Mozambique. It is used as a trade language throughout Tete Province.

Geographic distribution[edit]

Nyungwe is spoken by more than 439,000 people in Mozambique along the Zambezi River, principally in Tete Province.

Official status[edit]

While Portuguese is the only official language of Mozambique, Nyungwe is one of the recognized national languages.[4][5]


The phonological inventory is:[6][7]


Front Central Back
Closed i u
Semi-Closed e o
Open a



Many vocabulary words collected by David Livingstone in Tete in the 1850s, and Courtois in the 1890s are similar to the words in common use by Nyungwe-speaking people today.

Livingstone[8] Courtois[9] Martins[10] Translation
Molungo Mulungu Mulungu God
Mozungo Muzungu Muzungu White man


Nyungwe English
Sulo adayanya uxamwali na Moto[11] Rabbit makes friends with fire
Munembi: Basílio Gimo Author: Basílio Gimo
Pantsiku inango sulo akhazunga m’phepete mwa gombe,

ndipo mbvuu ikhabzizungirambo icimbadya mauswa yakusvipirira

m’phepete mwa gombe momwe mukhana sulomo.

Mbvuu iribe kuwona kuti sulo akhali m’phepete mule, na tenepo mbvuu idamuponda mwendo sulo.

Ndipo sulo adalira, acipfuwula aciwuza mbvuu kuti:

“Iwe mbvuu uli kuwona lini kuti uli kundiponda mwendo?”

One day, rabbit was walking by the river

and hippo was also walking there eating grass

by the shore of the river where rabbit was.

Hippo didn't see that rabbit was by the shore there and so hippo stepped on rabbit's foot.

Then rabbit cried, and yowled saying to hippo,

"You hippo! Can't you see that you've stepped on my foot?"


  1. ^ Nyungwe at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nyungwe". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  4. ^ http://www.mozambique.mz/pdf/constituicao.pdf The constitution of the Republic of Mozambique (pdf)
  5. ^ Sitoe, B. e Ngunga, A. (eds), 2000. Relatório do II Seminário sobre a Padronização da Ortografia de Línguas Moçambicanas. NELIMO, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo.
  6. ^ http://lidemo.net/biblioteca/resources/view/nyu/ling/NYU_T000007.pdf Transition primer for Portuguese to Nyungwe
  7. ^ Sitoe, B. e Ngunga, A. (eds), 2000. Relatório do II Seminário sobre a Padronização da Ortografia de Línguas Moçambicanas. NELIMO, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo., pp. 95-99.
  8. ^ http://www.thuto.org/ubh/etext/mtrav/liv31.htm David Livingstone; Missionary Travels Chapter 31
  9. ^ Courtois, Victor José. 1899. Dicionário Portuguez-Cafre-Tetense. Coimbra. Imprensa da Universidade.
  10. ^ Martins, Manuel dos Anjos. 1991. Elementos da língua Nyungwe. Missionários Combonianos. Roma.
  11. ^ http://lidemo.net/kalivu-ka-cinyungwe-1-bzidapi/ Kalivu ka Cinyungwe 1: Bzidapi, p.8.

External links[edit]