Talk:Shona language

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Population Figures[edit]

"Shona speakers comprise more than 80% of Zimbabwe's population and number about 6,225,000." The population of Zimbabwe is listed as 13.3 million. 6.23 million is slightly less than 50%. Someone needs to update these figures! 05:08, 13 September 2008 (UTC)05:08, 13 September 2008 (UTC)~

In cutting out the 80% number, then sentence didn't make sense anymore. I changed it to just say a large percentage of Zimbabwe. Vettrock (talk) 13:35, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

Possible copyvio[edit]

I pulled out the following paragraphs. They seem to be verbatim copied from here, constituting a possible copyright violation.

The archaeological ruins known as "Great Zimbabwe" have been radiocarbon dated to approximately 600 A.D. It is believed that the ancestors of modern day Shona built Great Zimbabwe and hundreds of other stone walled sites in Zimbabwe. It was not until the late 19th century that the peoples speaking several mutually intelligible languages were united under the Shona name.
There are five main language clusters: Korekore, Zezuru, Manyika, Ndau, and Karanga. The last of these groups was largely absorbed by the Ndebele when they moved into western Zimbabwe in the 1830s; some of their descendants are identified today as Kalanga.

I've also added a small bibliography. Let's rewrite this! mark 00:28, 12 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Official Language?[edit]

Shona is widely spoken, but I've checked some sources such as the CIA Factbook and it states that English is the only official language. Should that be changed? --Bash 00:04, 28 May 2005 (UTC)

There are three official languages, namely, Shona, Ndebele and English. Further to this, English has the special role of the "language of record", i.e., all official records and record archives of any nature are in English. This special role given to English is particularly strange to me given our (we, the Shona) desire to see longevity for our language. Kudakwashe

Shona people?[edit]

Is there an ethnic group called Shona? If not, why is this page disambiguated from "Shona"?

Peter Isotalo July 3, 2005 22:38 (UTC)

Yes there is. The Shona people speak the Shona language. — mark 3 July 2005 22:45 (UTC)

There certainly is an ethnic group bearing the name Shona. I'm one of them. The Shona estimated population is of the order 8-10 million. The majority (about 90%) are in Zimbabwe. The country name Zimbabwe is in Shona and so is the city name Harare - kudakwashe

Number of sounds[edit]

How many sounds has the Shona language? -- 09:01, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Incorrect Translation[edit]

It is mentioned in the "Pronounciation" section that the question "Unoenda Kupi?" translates to "Where are you going". In actual fact the correct translation is "Where do you go". "Where are you going?" would be "Urikuenda Kupi?". By the way i am a native Shona speaker.Macnos (talk) 23:42, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

Based on The English alphabet[edit]

Shona is not my 1st Language but one of the languages i can speak. I read the whole thing but i think it should be noted that the Shona language writing is based on the English alphabet and the main difference is that it misses the Letter L and even in the pronunciation of any word(to the best of my knowledge) —Preceding unsigned comment added by LarryTheGreat (talkcontribs) 16:35, 14 July 2008 (UTC)


I've attempted to get the sound system down, but don't know what I'm doing, and have fact-tagged the sounds I'm most uncertain about. Any help would be appreciated—this is a very interesting language! kwami (talk) 23:16, 18 August 2008 (UTC)

Damn, I wish I'd looked at this article about a year ago. I had to do a final project on this language for a phonology course and had to read a couple analyses of it. I'll try to find the names of the sources. —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 23:30, 18 August 2008 (UTC)
Okay, my professor had suggested that I read anything that George Fortune wrote about Shona, as well as the thesis of one Derek Fivaz, "Shona morphophonemics and morphosyntax". I believe both of these guys were from the University of Witwatersrand. Unfortunately, both sources are rather old and neither use very standard phonetic notation. They were a real pain to follow. I can provide the consonant/vowel chart I distilled from these sources, but I can't directly attribute any of it to those sources as I'm no longer in possession of them. Good luck! —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 23:44, 18 August 2008 (UTC)
That would be very helpful. (And what of tone?) We can let someone else worry about the citations. kwami (talk) 23:50, 18 August 2008 (UTC)
I'll post my consonant and vowel charts below, but I might not have info on the tones. However, now that I think of it, I might have a more extensive research paper that went along with the presentation. The project had just been to derive the base forms of the Shona passive marker based on a bunch of examples. We'll see... —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 00:50, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

Consonant chart:

labial alveolar postalveolar palatal velar glottal
plosive p b t d k g
affricate pf bv ts dz
labialized affricate ts̫ dz̫
fricative f β s z ʃ ʒ h
labialized fricative
nasal m n ɲ ŋ
approximant j w
trill r

Vowel chart:

front central back
close i u
mid e o
open a (described as central by Fortune)

Some of these notations might seem a little odd or nonstandard, but it's how Fivaz/Fortune describe it. Hope this helps! —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 01:17, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

This chart also had a footnote about implosives and breathy consonants. That they come by "other derivations" (whatever that means), and there's a reference to Fivaz pp. 3-6. —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 01:19, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
Okay, according to the research paper I wrote, "almost all of the consonants have breathy voiced counterparts", but Fortune describes the breathy voicing as an aspect of "overall phonological alternation" with the breathy voicing applying to the entire syllable rather than the individual sounds. I also have a note about the possible syllable structures in Shona. Fortune said they can be V, CV, CCV, CCCV, CCCCV or /m/. However, as Fortune defined affricates as two separate consonants rather than a single unit, I believe that rules out CCCCV and possibly CCCV.

Syllable chart:

Syllable structure Example Translation
V àːβà these
CV kùːpá to give
CCV ìːmbá house
CCCV ʒ̫íːn̫d̫ʒ̫í many
CCCCV ìːndʒgè bitter things
/m/ mˌpàːtà (the /m/ should have a grave accent) it is a pass

I know there are a couple things in here that contradict the chart above; this is just verbatim from Fortune. These might be narrow transcriptions, while the charts I gave above are underlying forms/broad transcriptions. —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 01:48, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

The other problem about Fortune and Fivaz is that neither seem to follow a standard transcription method; either in terms of the IPA back then or what it is today. So it required a little creative deciphering. I'm about to post another chart that shows all the consonant phonemes. —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 01:53, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
Thanks a lot!
Do you know what the diff tween vh and v is? kwami (talk) 07:43, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
Hopefully this will help elaborate a bit. By the notation used in the article, I'd say that "v" is [β] while "vh" is [ʋ]. I believe Fortune may have transcribed "v" as [v] however. I think he dealt specifically with the Zezuru dialect of Shona, while Fivaz likely dealt with a different specific dialect. Really, the two sounds are very similar- I'm sure there are some languages that consider them contrastive sounds, but I don't think most dialects of Shona would. Anyway, here's the chart:
labial alveolar postalveolar palatal velar glottal
plosive p b t d k g
affricate pf bv bv̤ ts dz dz̤ dʒ̤
labialized affricate ts̫ dz̫ dz̤̫
fricative f β β̤ s z ʃ ʒ ʒ̤ h
labialized fricative
nasal m n ɲ ɲ̤ ŋ ŋ̤
approximant ʋ j w
trill r
clusters /mb/ /mv̤/ /mb̤/ /nz̤/ /nz̤̫/ /nd̤/ /nd/ /ndʒ̤/ /ŋg̤/ /ŋg/

That last section is kinda odd. I'm not sure what to make of it; it comes from Fortune's Shona Grammatical Constructions, Part 1. I did find that one to be quite useful. —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 08:21, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

Okay, here we have a murmured series but no implosives, whereas what I've seen elsewhere specifies that b and d are implosive (bh and dh are [b, d]), and makes no mention of murmur. Breathy voice w/o aspiration would be unusual, and you'd think this would come up as an example in defending Indoeuropean reconstructions. Might you have assumed that vh, mh, etc. were murmured because of the orthography? Also, AFAIK, a labial flap has not been reported for southern Africa. In the proposal to the IPA to add a symbol for it, being able to cite Shona would have been a big boost, but the only languages used were quite obscure ones from Central Africa and Indonesia. kwami (talk) 08:30, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
I'm really not sure. As I said it's been a year... no two actually... since I looked at this last. My only exposure to Shona has been those few all-nighters frantically compiling a summary of the phonology from these old, old books. I'm pretty sure Fortune mentioned the Labiodental flap, but it's possible this was part of his nonstandard notation. I wonder if I can get those tomes on interlibrary loan up here even though I've graduated... —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 09:24, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
Oh, and about the implosives: my charts above are phonemes, not the whole consonant inventory of the language. It's possible they occur as allophones, but it's equally possible I missed them because of Fivaz/Fortune's condensing their charts. Fivaz had completely omitted the breathy voiced consonants in his. —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 09:27, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
It's also possible they just neglected to mention aspiration for brevity's sake. I mean, if it's unusual to have breathy voice without aspiration, they may have assumed that we'd make the same assumption. I know we really can't decide that for ourselves. Hmm... I'll see if I can dig up those books anywhere else. —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 09:50, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
I find it astonishing that so little has been done on a national language spoken by 10M, especially when there are so many interesting things going on. kwami (talk) 09:54, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
I'm sure there's something newer; Fortune was especially difficult reading unfortunately. Fivaz, being a PhD thesis, wasn't much better, though I think he might be the better overall source. I believe he was one of Fortune's students, which suggests at least that his work is a continuation of Fortune's. Overall though, big pain in the ass to work with these interesting languages. Ah well, at least we're not sorting through all the mess they must be with Pirahã language (unless that's died down; I stopped listening awhile ago). —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 11:17, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

On a related note, I believe the "Whistled sibilants" section is referring entirely to those labialized fricatives/affricates. I seem to remember reading that in one of Fortune's earlier sections. —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 19:43, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

Yes, there's "labialized without being velarized" sv, zv (per Ladefoged & Maddieson, who AFAIK did not work w Shona), which can in turn be contrastively labialized (svw, zvw, parallel to s, z, sw, zw) in some dialects. From the thesis, the labialization of sv, zv is incidental. kwami (talk) 20:17, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

Shona language template[edit]

If you are a native speaker of Shona then you can help translate this template into your own language:

snThis user is a native speaker of Shona.


--Amazonien (talk) 02:47, 20 January 2009 (UTC)

Transferred from Great Zimbabwe National Monument, where it did not belong[edit]

The majority of the people of Zimbabwe speak a language called ChiVanhu or ChiShona, which consists of several dialects the major ones being ChiKaranga, ChiZezuru, ChiManyika and ChiNdau. The Shona people, in their language, call themselves Vanhu who speak a language called ChiVanhu. The term Shona is a SiNdebele word derived from "entshonalanga", which means "people of the West", named byMzilikazi as he invaded from Mozambique. The history behind the name, Zimbabwe, has not been established. However, the word is a ChiVanhu or ChiShona word with a clear meaning today among ChiVanhu or ChiShona speakers. As the analysis in this section will reveal, the word "Zimbabwe" is clearly a from the ChiKaranga dialect of Chivanhu or ChiShona. There are two schools of thought regarding the historical origin of the name, Zimbabwe.

I have no idea of the veracity of the above text (except the bit about Mzilikazi coming via Mozambique, which is obviously wrong), but am posting it here in case it proves useful. The remaining text is here Babakathy (talk) 09:48, 26 January 2009 (UTC)

Possible external link for this article.[edit]

Chirikure Chirikure is a notable Shona poet, and there is a page with poetry of his, in Shona and translation, at
(the site is globally blacklisted, but I've requested whitelisting this one link at current discussion, permanent link to current revision, and I expect that the request will be successful. In the absence of better examples of Shona, I think this may be appropriate as an external link here, and, after whitelisting, would intend to add it. It's been added to the parallel article on de.wikipedia (by me, but with notice; is totally whitelisted on de.wikipedia). Comments? --Abd (talk) 14:04, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

Whitelisting of the English language interface to having been successful, and there having been no objection here, I am adding the link as reasonable. --Abd (talk) 16:18, 1 March 2009 (UTC)

Toko dialect[edit]

IP said in this edit that

There is no such thing as Toko dialect, if you are referring to the dialect spoken in Mutoko. It is called Buja/Budya which is correctly designated below as a subdialect of Korekore.

I have no information on this myself, but it is better to have the discussion here rather than as an edit. Babakathy (talk) 09:36, 31 December 2009 (UTC)

Moved from article space[edit]

TjiKalanga may be different from all the other languages to the north of present day Matabeleland. However its was the official language of the Nyai Empire, popularly known as the Lozwi/Rozvi Empire and therefore in the same way that official languages influence dominated languages, its words slowly found their way into the languages spoken in the then Empire and thus the similarity with both Shona, Sotho and even some Nguni tribes that at some point were subject to the influence of the Mambo/Nyai in one way or the other notably the Ndwandwe. In Mozambique the Tsonga and Hlengwe are also originally Nyai/Lozwi/Rozvi. It must be rememberd that Rozvi. Shankwe is largely a Kalanga language. Apparently the Nyai/Lozwi/Rozvi also had class systems and the Shankwe were considered lower class Rozvi or a minor house of the Rozvi. This was purely for the purposes of succession as the Shankwe could never be selected by the "hadzashe[electoral college]" as Emperors of the Lozwi. Nothing however has so far been revealed as the reason but it seems the Kalanga/Lozwi societies gave people different roles and the Shankwe could have a specific role in a similar way that the Nleya/Mundambeli were spies and the Khuphe, originally known as "Tshipi" were mainly tasked with being iron-smiths.[Note that the class system among the Lozwi was not in any way similar to that of the Ndebele which had restrictive rules even matrimonially with the upper class abezansi not being allowed to marry lower classes. However this aspect seems to have been a creation of earlier European historians who wanted to paint a picture of the Ndebele as barbaric in order to promote disunity. Rational conclusions actually point in the opposite direction. The Khumalos, Swazis and Zulus that formed were the "abeZansi" group were mainly soldiers or impis and therefore the assumption was that they were predominantly male. Mzilikazi could not have therefore had a policy of such restrictive nationalism or class system because that could mean the abeZansi would simply have no woman to marry. Rather it seems he encouraged these marriages with some scholars even suggesting Mzilikazi married a daughter of Mambo [King of the Kalanga/Lozwi/Rozvi. Furthermore the word "hole" which is used to describe the people found by Mzilikazi in Zimbabwe, also known as the amaNdebele kaMambo, is not a derogatory word as early European historians suggested. Rather Mzilikazi gave them the name "amaholangubo" after he found that they found that unlike them these people wore cloths and not skins and he concluded that was because of their trade with the Portuguese which earned them cloths].

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