Northern Ndebele language
Northern Ndebele (siNdebele saseNyakatho), also called isiNdebele, Sindebele, Zimbabwean Ndebele or North Ndebele, and formerly known as Matabele, is an African language belonging to the Nguni group of Bantu languages, spoken by the Northern Ndebele people, or Matabele, of Zimbabwe.
|Region||Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South in Zimbabwe; North-East District in Botswana|
|1.6 million (2012)|
Official language in
|The Ndebele Language|
|People||amaNdebele (prev. Matebele)|
Northern Ndebele is related to the Zulu language, spoken in South Africa. This is because the Northern Ndebele people of Zimbabwe descend from followers of the Zulu leader Mzilikazi (one of Zulu king Shaka's generals), who left the Zulu Kingdom in the early 19th century, during the Mfecane, arriving in present-day Zimbabwe in 1839.
Although there are some differences in grammar, lexicon and intonation between Zulu and Northern Ndebele, the two languages share more than 85% of their lexicon. To prominent Nguni linguists like Anthony Cope and Cyril Nyembezi, Northern Ndebele is a dialect of Zulu. To others like Langa Khumalo, it is a language. Distinguishing between a language and a dialect for language varieties that are very similar is difficult, with the decision often being based not on linguistic but political criteria.
Northern Ndebele and Southern Ndebele (or Transvaal Ndebele), which is spoken in South Africa, are separate but related languages with some degree of mutual intelligibility, although the former is more closely related to Zulu. Southern Ndebele, while maintaining its Nguni roots, has been influenced by the Sotho languages.
Ndebele grammar is similar to that of Zulu.
|Plosive||plain||p [pʼ]||t [tʼ]||k [kʼ]|
|voiced||bh [b]||d [d]||ɡ [ɡ]|
|aspirated||ph [pʰ]||th [tʰ]||kh [kʰ]|
|prenasalized||mp [ᵐp]||nt [ⁿt]||nk [ᵑk]|
|prenasalized (depr.)||mb [ᵐb]||nd [ⁿd]||ng [ᵑɡ]|
|Fricative||plain||f [f]||s [s]||sh [ʃ]||h [h]|
|voiced (depr.)||b [βʱ]||v [vʱ]||z [zʱ]||zh [ʒʱ]||(k [ɣʱ])||h [ɦ]|
|voiced (non-depr.)||b [β]||(k [ɣ])|
|prenasalized||mf [ɱf]||ns [ⁿs]|
|prenasalized (depr.)||mv [ɱv]||nz [ⁿz]|
|Nasal||plain||m [m]||n [n]||ny [ɲ]||ng [ŋ]|
|depressed||m [mʱ]||n [nʱ]||ny [ɲʱ]||ng [ŋʱ]|
|Lateral fricative||plain||hl [ɬ]|
|prenasalized (depr.)||ndl [ⁿɮ]|
|Approximant||plain||w [w]||y [j]|
|depressed||w [wʱ]||y [jʱ]|
|Lateral approximant||plain||l [l]|
|Affricate||voiceless||plain||ts [tsʼ]||tsh [tʃʼ]||kl [kˣ]|
|aspirated||tsh [tsʰ]||tsh [tʃʰ]|
|prenasalized||plain||nts [ⁿtsʼ]||ntsh [ᶮtʃʼ]||nkl [ᵑkˣ]|
There are seven vowel phonemes, written with the letters a, e, i, o, u.
- a is pronounced [a], approximately like a in father; e.g. abantwana (children)
- e is pronounced [ɛ] or [e], sometimes like e in bed; e.g. emoyeni (in the air)
- i is pronounced [i], like ee in see; e.g. siza (help)
- o is pronounced [ɔ] or [o], sometimes approximately like o in bone; e.g. okhokho (ancestors)
- u is pronounced [u], like oo in soon; e.g. umuntu (person)
In Northern Ndebele, there are three click consonants c, q and x.
c [ǀ] is made by placing the tip of the tongue against the front upper teeth and gums, the centre of the tongue is depressed and the tip of the tongue is drawn backwards. The resulting sound is similar to the sound used in English to express annoyance. Some examples are cina (end), cela (ask)
The q [!] sound is made by raising the back of the tongue to touch the soft palate and touching the gums with the sides and tip of the tongue. The centre of the tongue is depressed and the tip drawn quickly away from the gum. The resulting sound is like the "pop" heard when quickly removing the cork from a bottle. Some examples are qalisa (start), qeda (finish)
The x [ǁ] sound is made by placing the tongue so that the back of the tongue touches the soft palate and the sides and tip of the tongue touch the gums. One side of the tongue is quickly withdrawn from the gums. Some examples are xoxa (discuss), ixoxo (frog).
|Plosive||voiceless||plain||c [ǀ]||q [!]||x [ǁ]|
|aspirated||ch [ǀʰ]||qh [!ʰ]||xh [ǁʰ]|
|voiced||depressed||gc [ɡǀʱ]||gq [ɡ!ʱ]||gx [ɡǁʱ]|
|nasalized||nc [ŋǀ]||nq [ŋ!]||nx [ŋǁ]|
|nasalized (depr.)||ngc [ŋǀʱ]||ngq [ŋ!ʱ]||ngx [ŋǁʱ]|
- Ndebele at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Zimbabwean Ndebele". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
- "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: nde". ISO 639-2 Registration Authority - Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 2017-12-22. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
Name: North Ndebele
- "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: nde". ISO 639-3 Registration Authority - SIL International. Archived from the original on 2017-11-01. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
Name: North Ndebele
- Langa Khumalo, “Language Contact and Lexical Change: A Lexicographical Terminographical Interface in Zimbabwean Ndebele,” Lexikos 14, no. 108 (2004).
- Anthony Cope, “A Consolidated Classification of the Bantu Languages,” African Studies 30, nos. 3–4 1971): 213–36.
- C.L.S. Nyembezi, 1957. Learn Zulu, Cape Town: Shuter & SHooter
- D.K. Rycroft “Ndebele and Zulu: Some Phonetic and Tonal Comparisons,” Zambezia, no. 2 (1980): 109–28.
- Skhosana, Philemon Buti (2009). "3". The Linguistic Relationship between Southern and Northern Ndebele (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-11-17.
- Shenk, J.R. A New Ndebele Grammar
- "isiNdebele for beginners. Northern Ndebele language in Africa". northernndebele.blogspot.co.za. Archived from the original on 2016-10-18.
- Bowern, Claire; Lotridge, Victoria, eds. (2002). Ndebele. Munich: LINCOM EUROPA. ISBN 3-89586-465-X.
- Sibanda, Galen (2004). Verbal Phonology and Morphology of Ndebele (Ph.D.). University of California, Berkeley.
- Hadebe, Samukele (2002). The Standardisation of the Ndebele Language Through Dictionary-making. University of Zimbabwe - University of Oslo.