Zulu language

Spoken in

  • Niger - Congo languages Benue - Congo languages Bantoid languages Bantu languages Ngunisprachen isiZulu




IsiZulu (or simply called Zulu ) is a Bantu language and is spoken by about 11 million people ( 95 percent ) live mainly in South Africa.

IsiZulu is spoken of the population in South Africa from about 22.4 percent (as of 1995) as their mother tongue, where it is one of the eleven official languages ​​since the end of apartheid. Next it is used in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland. The written form of the language is determined by the "Pan South African Language Board ".

Zulu is an agglutinative language with noun class system and is classified in the subgroup of the Nguni family of languages ​​within the Bantu languages. Closely related is with Xhosa and Swati. The history of the language, little is known; there are signs that Zulu is a language since the 16th century.

The language is originally only been an oral language ( like many other languages ​​in Africa).

The language code is "closed" or " perm " ( ISO 639).

  • 2.1 Abbreviations
  • 2.2 The noun
  • 2.3 The verb 2.3.1 Simple verb roots
  • 2.3.2 Advanced verb roots
  • 2.3.3 Subjektpräfixe
  • 2.3.4 Objektpräfixe
  • 2.6.1 The participial
  • 2.6.2 The subjunctive
  • 2.7.1 The tripod
  • 2.8.1 The consecutive
  • 5.1 dictionaries
  • 5.2 Language and Culture
  • 5.3 Newspapers
  • 5.4 Radio


In Zulu the penultimate syllable is usually extended and stressed. Exceptions are the short form of the perfect tense ( emphasis on the last syllable) and the past tense ( emphasis on the first syllable ).

The Substantivpräfix isi - will is- shortened if the root word is polysyllabic. Example: isikhathi ( "time" ) is spoken iskhathi, isitha ( "enemy" ), however, as it is written.

The meaning of some words is the sound dependent, so the choice of the pitch of individual syllables. For example SISONKE means either "together" or " we are together ", depending on whether the first syllable is spoken high or low.



Clicking sounds



The noun

The noun in Zulu basically consists of two parts, the prefix and the root ( the prefix can be further decomposed ). A prefix divide the nouns in noun classes. The noun classes in turn are numbered to facilitate comparisons within the language family. For example, include the nouns abafana (boys ) and Blue Jay (friends ) because of the prefix aba - to noun class 2, while the nouns isibongo (Last Name) and isihlahla ( tree ) based on the prefix isi - to noun class 7 count.

Each noun class has both a clearly defined grammatical as well as a less clearly defined semantic meaning. Seen Grammatically is determined by the prefix, whether the noun is singular or plural. Therefore noun classes come in pairs in general. For example, nouns have the singular class 7 (prefix isi ) their plural in class 8 (prefix izi - ).


Exceptions are the classes 14 (prefix ubu - ) and 15 (prefix uku - ) for which there is no plural form usually (if necessary, in the case of Class 14 of the plural of the class 6 is formed; nouns of Class 15 never have a plural form ).

Furthermore, the noun class determines the form of the other related to the noun phrases as verbs, adjectives, etc. These will be delivered via appropriate, depending on the noun class and derived prefixes in compliance ( concordance ) with the noun.


Semantically, there is an accumulation of certain types of nouns in certain classes. For example, first and last name will always in class 1a, people names, which are derived from verbs (eg play → players) very often in class 1, abstract concepts (eg, beauty ) in class 14, Leihwörter for example from English depending on Assimilierungsgrad in class 9 or 5 and by the infinitive form of verbs derived nouns ( → eat food) in class 15

The following table gives an overview of the noun classes in Zulu. They are summarized for clarity in singular / plural pairs.

1 at - will umu - before monosyllabic stems, eg umuntu ( human).

2 aba and imi - become degraded or im- against strains that begin with a vowel, eg abongameli ( President ).

3 abe - occurs only in a few cases before, eg in abeSuthu ( Sotho ) or abeLungu ( the whites ).

4 ame - occurs only in two cases, namely the plural amehlo (eyes) of iso ( eye, originally: Ihlo ) and the plural Ameva ( thorns ) of iva ( Dorn).

5 isi - and izi - will is- and iz- before stems beginning with a vowel, eg isandla / izandla (hand / hands).

6 The placeholder N in the prefixes iN - and - Izin represents a m, a n or no letter, ie in classes 9 and 10 are three prefixes before (but only exactly one word per strain). Examples:

The verb

A verb in Zulu is in contrast to the noun of a variable number of parts that are put together according to certain rules in a specific order. These parts are for example

  • A Subjektpräfix, which relates to the subject of the sentence
  • A Tempusformativ that determines the tense of the verb
  • An object prefix, which refers to the object of the sentence
  • The verb root, which carries the actual meaning of the verb
  • A suffix that can show various aspects of the verb (eg, tense, mode)

A verb is always at least from a verb root and a suffix. The other parts are optional, i.e., their use depends on the function of the verb in the sentence.

Simple verb roots

Simple verb roots are those that do not contain expanding suffixes change the meaning of the verb. These include, for example:

Advanced verb roots

Advanced verb roots emerge from simple verb roots by appending expanding suffixes change the meaning. This is based on the verb root - enz ( make, do ) and the most commonly encountered enhancements exemplified:


A Subjektpräfix ( SP) in Zulu corresponds to a German personal pronouns in the nominative case. Unlike personal pronouns in Zulu Subjektpräfixe can not stand for themselves, but are preceded by a verb, for example. Although Zulu knows independent personal pronouns, but these are only used to place the emphasis on the referenced person.

Example with SP si and personal pronouns thina ( we each ):

There is a private Subjektpräfix for each noun class and every person.

The non-leading Subjektpräfixe ( SP ) used one if the SP still is prefixed, such as the negative of various tenses.


An object prefix (OP ) in Zulu one speaks in English a personal pronoun in the accusative or dative ( Zulu does not distinguish formally between these two cases ). Just like Subjektpräfixe can Objektpräfixe unlike personal pronouns are not for themselves, but the verb root are prefixed. Independent personal pronouns are only used here to place the emphasis on the referenced person.

Example with OP - m- ( it / him / her) and personal pronoun yena ( him / him / her):

There is a separate object prefix for each noun class and every person.

The imperative

Formation rule:

The only exception to this is the verb root -z ( come ) that denominated imperative forms woza ( komm! ) or wozani ( kommt! ).


Eat it (the fish)!

Eat it (the fish)

Join in!


Do it!

Does it!



Help him!

Help him!

The infinitive

Formation rule:


There occur various sound changes here, when two vowels come together. Namely, the following applies:

Furthermore, the suffix -a in verb roots, the stop on w, never -i.

The present tense

Formation rule:

The formative Ya is used when

  • The verb is the last word in the sentence
  • The verb contains an object prefix and follows the referenced object to the verb
  • We want to emphasize that something is " actually " made ​​.


The participial

Formation rule:

In the participial form the Subjektpräfixe u - ba - and a- classes 1, 1a, 2, 2b, and 6 e -, are loaded and e -. The participial is used inter alia

  • To express concurrency
  • In subordinate clauses after certain conjunctions
  • According to certain auxiliary verbs


The subjunctive

Formation rule:

The subjunctive is the Subjektpräfix u - classes 1 and 1a to A-. The subjunctive is used

  • To express wishes or ( polite ) instructions
  • Enumerate instructions
  • According to certain auxiliary verbs


The Perfect

The Perfect describes the recent past. What this is considered " close " is at the discretion of the speaker. In everyday language, the perfect is often preferred to the preterite.

Formation rule:

The long form on - ile is used when the verb is the last word in the sentence or part sentence, otherwise the short form in-e, the e is stressed.


The tripod

A number of verbs in Zulu denote a change of state or a process that eventually leads to a final state (so-called incohative verbs). To express that this final state is reached, to use the tripod, which is related to the Perfect.

Formation rule:


It should be noted that in verb roots with certain extensions of the tripod is not formed with - ile. These are:

1 This is a single case, namely the ( irregular ) Passive bulaw - of - bulal -.

The preterite

The preterite is used for the remote past, the past before Perfect and as a narrative past.

Formation rule:

By fusing the SP with a subsequent (long spoken ) in a positive result for the preterite Subjektpräfixe following:


The consecutive

Formation rule:

The Consecutive used for enumeration of successive events in the past tense and differs only in the negative of this.


The future tense

Formation rule:

To mark the future tense is used the negative formative -zo in the positive- to - in or. The shape is formed by the auxiliary verb uku -za [ also with the auxiliary verb uku -ya possible] and the infinitive of the verb. So ngiza ukusiza = ngizosiza ( I come to help, I 'll help = ) [or help ngiya ukusiza = ngiyosiza I 'm going to help = I will ]. In negation the auxiliary verb is negated and connected to the following infinitive. So angizi ukusiza = angizusiza. In addition, in monosyllabic verb roots or those that begin with a vowel, the verb root, the prefix -ku - prefixed ( this becomes k before o and - kw- before other vowels ).


Other tenses

Other forms, such as the pluperfect, the future II, the progressive forms or the subjunctive forms are little more complicated. You are using a one or two-time use of the auxiliary verb - ba ( be ) made ​​. In practical use, they are also shortened.