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A Bantu language, the principal language of Zimbabwe. Shona is not the native name of the language, which they refer to by the dialect. The Zezuru dialect is that of Harare; others are Karanga, Manyika, Korekore, and Ndau.

A notable phonological feature of Shona is the existence of labialized S and Z, that is pronounced simultaneously with lip-rounding. These are conventionally written SV and ZV.

Shona also has phonetic alterations in the initial consonant caused by different class prefixes or the traces of former prefixes. In this way it happens to resemble the unrelated Welsh.

The class prefixes may be illustrated thus. Humans are of the MU-VHA class:

  • mukomana mukuru = 'big boy'
  • vhakomana vhakuru = 'big boys'
  • musikana mukuru = 'big girl'
  • vhasikana vhakuru vhavhiri = 'two big girls'
Impersonal nouns beginning with MU (occasionally M) take a different plural prefix and other concords:
  • muti mukuru = 'big tree'
  • miti mikuru mitatu = 'three big trees'
Numerous other things belong to the CHI-ZVI class:
  • chigaro chikuru = 'big chair'
  • zvigaro zvikuru zvitatu = 'three big chairs'
CHI is also used for language names, as VHA is for people names. So the Vhakaranga are those who speak the Chikaranga dialect.

Shona has only three basic colour terms, one for black/cool, one for white/warm, and one for red: see Color Terms in Language for details.

Numerals: poshi, piri, tatu, cina, shanu, tanhatu, cinomnge, rusere, pfumbamnge, gumi.

See also my nodes Swahili and Xhosa for comparison with other Bantu languages.

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