Shona is a member of the Bantu branch of the Niger-Congo language family. It is spoken by about 10.8 million people mainly in Zimbabwe, where more than 80% of the population are Shona speakers. In particular it is spoken in Harare, and in the provinces of Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Midlands and Manicaland.
There are also about 93,000 speakers of Shona in Malawi, 46,300 in the Central and North West districts of Botswana, 21,400 in the UK, 18,000 in South Africa, 12,700 in the Southern, Central and Lusaka provinces of Zambia, and there are smaller numbers of speakers in some other countries.
A standard written form of Shona was codified in the 1930s and revised in the 1950s. The standard written language is based on the Karanga dialect (Chikaranga), which is spoken mainly in the Midlands province in southern Zimbabwe. The first novel in Shona, Feso by Solomon Mutswairo, was published in 1957. Shona is taught in some primary schools in Zimbabwe.
Shona is a tonal language with two tones: high and low. These are not indicated in writing.
Some sounds were written differently in the version of the Shona alphabet used between 1931 and 1955: b = ɓ, d = ɗ, ng = ŋ, sv = ȿ, v = ʋ, zv = ɀ.
Download an alphabet chart for Shona (Excel)
Vanhu vese vanoberekwa vakasununguka uyewo vakaenzana pahunhu nekodzero dzavo. Vanhu vese vanechipo chokufunga nekuziva chakaipa nechakanaka saka vanofanira kubatana nomweya wohusahwira.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
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Information about Shona | Phrases | Numbers | Tower of Babel
Information about the Shona language
Online Shona lessons
Shona - English online talking dictionary
Basaa, Bemba, Bukusu, Bulu, Chichewa, Chokwe, Comorian, Digo, Duala, Eton, Ewondo, Fang, Ganda/Luganda, Gogo, Gusii, Gwere, Haya, Herero, Ikizu, Jita, Kamba, Kiga, Kikuyu, Kimbundu, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Kisi, Kongo, Konjo, Kuria, Lambya, Lingala, Loma, Lozi, Luchazi, Luvale, Makonde, Makhuwa, Mandekan, Maore, Masaaba, Mbunda, Mende, Mushungulu, Mwani, Nande, Nkore, Northern Ndebele (South Africa), Northern Ndebele (Zimbabwe), Northern Sotho, Nyamwezi, Nyakyusa, Nyemba, Nyole, Nyungwe, OshiWambo, Punu, Ronga, Sena, Shona, Soga, Songe, Southern Ndebele, Southern Sotho, Sukuma, Swahili, Swati, Tonga, Tshiluba, Tsonga, Tswa, Tswana, Tumbuka, Umbundu, Venda, Xhosa, Yao, Zigula, Zinza, Zulu
Languages written with the Latin alphabet
Page last modified: 08.03.22
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