Shona (or chiShona) is a Bantu language, native to the Shona people of Zimbabwe and southern Zambia; the term is also used to identify peoples who speak one of the Shona language dialects, namely Zezuru, Karanga, Manyika, Ndau and Korekore. The word "Shona" is derived from the Ndebele word itshonalanga ("where the sun set"). Shona is an official language of Zimbabwe, along with Ndebele and English. Shona speakers comprise more than 80% of Zimbabwe's population and number about 6,225,000. Shona is also spoken by a substantial number of people in Mozambique. Other countries that host Shona language speakers are Zambia and Botswana. The total number of Shona speakers is at least 7,000,000.
Shona is a written standard language with an orthography and grammar that was codified during the early 20th century and fixed in the 1950s. The first novel in Shona, Solomon Mutswairo's Feso, was published in 1957. Shona is taught in the schools but is not the general medium of instruction in other subjects. It has a literature and is described through monolingual and bilingual dictionaries (chiefly Shona - English). Modern Shona is based on the dialect spoken by the Karanga people of Masvingo Province, the region around Great Zimbabwe, and Zezuru people of central and northern Zimbabwe. However, all Shona dialects are officially considered to be of equal significance and are taught in local schools.
Shona is a member of the great family of Bantu languages. In Guthrie's zonal classification of Bantu languages, zone S10 designates a dialect continuum of closely related varieties, including Shona proper, Manyika, Nambya, and Ndau, spoken in Zimbabwe and central Mozambique; Tawara and Tewe, found in Mozambique; and Ikalanga of Botswana.
Shona speakers most likely moved into present day Zimbabwe during the great Bantu expansion.
Shona has five vowels — a, e, i, o, u — and a variety of consonants, including the peculiar "whistling sounds" transcribed as "zv" (possibly the most frequent; e.g. zvakanaka, "very well"), "dzv", "sv" and "tsv" . It is a tonal language, though tone is not represented in spelling.
There are many dialect differences in Shona, but a standardized dialect is recognized. According to information from Ethnologue:
Subdialects Duma, Jena, Mhari (Mari), Ngova, Venda [not the Venda language), Nyubi, Govera.
Subdialects Shawasha, Gova, Mbire, Tsunga, Kachikwakwa, Harava, Nohwe, Njanja, Nobvu, Kwazwimba (Zimba).
Subdialects: Budya, Gova, Tande, Tavara, Nyongwe, Pfunde, Shan Gwe.
Languages with partial intelligibility with Shona, of which the speakers are considered to be ethnically Shona, are the Ndau language, spoken in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and the Manyika language, spoken in eastern Zimbabwe, near Mutare. Ndau literacy material has been introduced into primary schools.
The letters of the alphabet are,
The digraphs ps and bz are pronounced /ps͎/ and /bz͎/, and mbw is /mbɡ/.
|svw||masvavembasvwi||"schemer"||(Shangwe, Korekore dialect)|
|zv||zvizvuvhutswa||"gold nuggets"||(Tsunga, Zezuru dialect)|
|dzv||akadzva||"he/she was unsuccesssful"|
|zvw||huzvweverere||"emotions"||(Gova, Korekore dialect)|
|nzv||nzvenga||"to dodge"||(Standard Shona)|
|zvc||muzvcazi||"the Milky Way"||Dental clicks. Only found in Ngova, Karanga dialect, which has |
substantial Ndebele influences, including the dental click ("c").
The band Dispatch uses Shona in its song Elias.
All verbs end in -a: