Zulu language

Nguni language of eastern South Africa and neighbouring countries

Zulu or isiZulu (Zulu: isiZulu) is the language of the Zulu people. 10 million people speak Zulu, and most of them (95%) live in South Africa. It is the most common home language in South Africa, where 24% of people speak it at home.[4] Over 50% of the population also speak and understand the language.[4]

Native toSouth Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland
RegionKwaZulu-Natal, eastern Gauteng, eastern Free State, southern Mpumalanga
Native speakers
12 million (2011 census)[1]
L2 speakers: 16 million (2002)[2]
Latin (Zulu alphabet)
Zulu Braille
Signed Zulu
Official status
Official language in
 South Africa
Regulated byPan South African Language Board
Language codes
ISO 639-1zu
ISO 639-2zul
ISO 639-3zul
Linguasphere99-AUT-fg incl.
varieties 99-AUT-fga to 99-AUT-fge
Proportion of the South African population that speaks Zulu at home
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

In 1994, it became one of South Africa's 11 official languages. Like other Bantu languages, Zulu is written using the Latin alphabet.

Where it is spoken change

Where isiZulu is spoke in South Africa: proportion (percentage) of the population that speaks isiZulu at home.
Where isiZulu is spoken in South Africa: density of isiZulu home-language speakers.
  <1 /km²
  1–3 /km²
  3–10 /km²
  10–30 /km²
  30–100 /km²
  100–300 /km²
  300–1000 /km²
  1000–3000 /km²
  >3000 /km²

Zulu belongs to the Nguni group of Bantu languages. Zulu migrants (people who move from place to place) have taken the language to other regions. There are now Zulu speakers in Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi, and Swaziland.

Zulu speakers in Zimbabwe speak a dialect called "Northern Ndebele language."

People who speak Xhosa can understand most Zulu. The opposite is also true: Zulu speakers can understand Xhosa. Xhosa language is the most common language spoken in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

History change

The Zulu, Xhosa, and other Nguni people have lived in South Africa for a long time. The Zulu language has a lot of click sounds common in Southern African languages. These click sounds are not found in the rest of Africa. The Nguni people have lived together with other Southern tribes like the San and Khoi.

Zulu and all other native Southern African languages was at first an oral language. It was not written down until missionaries came from Europe. These missionaries used the Latin alphabet to write the Zulu language. The first Zulu grammar book was published in Norway in 1850 by Hans Paludan Smith Schreuder.[5]

The oldest document written in Zulu is a Bible from 1883.[6] John Dube, a Zulu from Natal, wrote the first Zulu novel, Insila kaShaka, in 1933.[7] Another important Zulu author was Reginald Dhlomo. Dhlomo wrote U-Dingane (1936), U-Shaka (1937), U-Mpande (1938), U-Cetshwayo (1952) and U-Dinizulu (1968).[7][8] Other important Zulu writers are Benedict Wallet Vilakazi and Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali.[7]

Before 1994, the Zulu language was controlled by the Zulu Language Board in KwaZulu-Natal. Today, the Pan South African Language Board supports the use of all 11 official languages of South Africa.

Use today change

Before 1994, the official languages of South Africa were English, Dutch, and Afrikaans. During Apartheid, Zulu was spoken commonly in the Kwazulu bantustan. All education, however, at the high school level was in English or Afrikaans.

After Apartheid ended in 1994, Zulu became one of the official languages in South Africa. The SABC first started showing Zulu-language television and news programs in the 1980s. There are many Zulu radio stations and newspapers available, mostly in the Kwazulu-Natal province and Johannesburg. The first full-length feature film in Zulu was Yesterday. It was made in 2004 and nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar).

In The Lion King movie, the "Circle of Life" song has many Zulu phrases in it. Some of these phrases are:

  • Ingonyama nengw' enamabala (A lion and a leopard come to this open place)
  • Nants ingonyama bakithi Baba' (Here comes a lion, Father)
  • Siyo nqoba (We will conquer)

Other Lion King songs also had Zulu phrases in them.

Standard and urban Zulu change

There are two main types of Zulu. One type is called standard Zulu, and it is taught in schools. Standard Zulu is also called "deep Zulu" (Zulu: isiZulu esijulile). Standard Zulu is a purist language. This means that new ideas are described using words that are derived from other Zulu words.

The other type of Zulu is called urban Zulu (Zulu: isiZulu sasedolobheni). Urban Zulu is the kind of Zulu spoken by people who live in cities. Urban Zulu uses loan words borrowed from other languages to describe new ideas. Most of these loan words come from English.

Some of these different words for new ideas in Standard and Urban Zulu are listed here:

Standard Zulu urban Zulu English
umakhalekhukhwini icell cell/mobile phone
Ngiyaqonda Ngiya-understanda I understand

These two different types of Zulu language make problems in learning and education. Young people speak urban Zulu and do not often understand standard Zulu.[9]

Phrases change

This is a list of phrases in Zulu.

Sawubona Hello, to one person
Sanibonani Hello, to a group of people
Unjani? / Ninjani? How are you (one person)? / How are you (many people)?
Ngisaphila / Sisaphila I'm okay / We're okay
Ngiyabonga (kakhulu) Thank you (very much)
Ngubani igama lakho? What is your name?
Igama lami ngu... My name is...
Isikhathi sithini? What's the time?
Ngingakusiza? Can I help you?
Uhlala kuphi? Where do you stay?
Uphumaphi? Where are you from?
Hamba kahle / Sala kahle Go well / Stay well (used as goodbye)
Hambani kahle / Salani kahle Go well / Stay well, to a group of people
Eish! Wow!
Hhayibo No! / Stop! / No way!
Yebo Yes
Cha No
Angazi I don't know
Ukhuluma isiNgisi na? Do you speak English?
Ngisaqala ukufunda isiZulu I've just started learning Zulu

Common place names in Zulu change

Zulu place names occur in the locative form most of the time. A place name is both a preposition and a name. Changing the prefix of the place name changes the preposition.

For example, the Zulu name for Johannesburg is iGoli. The word eGoli means to/at/in/from Johannesburg. The root word Goli means "Johannesburg," but doesn't mean anything by itself in Zulu.

Most of the time, changing the i- or u- prefix to the e- prefix changes the meaning like this. In some cases, like with Durban, the name changes too.

English place Zulu place name
to/at/in/from Zulu place name
Durban iTheku eThekwini
Johannesburg iGoli eGoli
Cape Town iKapa eKapa
Pretoria iPitoli ePitoli
Pietermaritzburg uMgungundlovu eMgungundlovu
Ladysmith uMnambithi eMnambithi

'Zulu' or 'isiZulu'? change

The Zulu name for the language is isiZulu. The isi- prefix means "language." (It also means other things, but here it means language.) For example, isiNgisi means English, isiXhosa means Xhosa, isiBhunu means Afrikaans, and isiJalimane means German.

When the word Zulu has a prefix that is not "isi-", it means a lot of different things. This is a table that shows how the meanings of the word changes:

Prefix Word Meaning
um(u) umZulu a Zulu person
ama, aba amaZulu Zulu people
isi isiZulu the Zulu language
kwa kwaZulu place of the Zulu people
i(li) izulu the weather/sky/heaven
pha phezulu on top
e ezulwini in/at/to/from heaven

Zulu words in South African English change

Many Zulu words are used in South African English. Some words, like the names of local animals, are used in standard English. Impala and mamba, for example, are zulu words. Some Zulu words used in South African English are:

  • Muti (from umuthi) - medicine
  • Donga (from udonga) - ditch (udonga actually means 'wall' in Zulu)
  • Indaba - conference (it means 'an item of news' in Zulu)
  • inDuna - chief or leader
  • Shongololo (from ishongololo) - millipede
  • Ubuntu - compassion/humanity.

Sources change

References change

  1. Zulu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Webb, Vic. 2002. "Language in South Africa: the role of language in national transformation, reconstruction and development", Impact: Studies in language and society, 14:78
  3. Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com/. Accessed 2011-05-15.
  5. Rakkenes, Øystein (2003) Himmelfolket: En Norsk Høvding i Zululand, Oslo: Cappelen Forlag, pp. 63-65
  6. Ager, Simon (2011). "Zulu (isiZulu)". Omniglot. Retrieved 2011-07-03.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Zulu literature". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2011-07-03.
  8. "R. R. R. Dhlomo". Encyclopædia Britannica (Online ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-03.
  9. Constance Samukelisiwe Magagula. Standard versus non-standard isiZulu: a comparative study between urban and rural learners' performance and attitude. Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2009 [1] Archived 2012-01-14 at the Wayback Machine

Other websites change