Date of completion MAY 02 2000

Respondent’s details
Name:  Buyisiwe Phyllis
Surname: Mngadi

Male: []
Female: F

Institution belonged to: National Language Service  Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
Address: Private Bag X195 Pretoria, 0001, South Africa
Telephone: 27 12 337 8366
Fax:  27 12 337 8366

Details of language

Glotonym or name of language on which you are providing data:
Autoglotonym (name given to the language by native speakers): isiZulu
Heteroglotonym (name given by the non-native community to the language):          Zulu

What language group does the language belong to?
Family: Bantu Language Family
Group: South Eastern Bantu
Subgroup: Nguni

What type of language is it?
Creole check box
Pidgin check box
None of the above.

  1. Does this language have other varieties? If so, what are these?

Yes. The Central KwaZulu Variety, The KwaZulu Coast Variety, The Natal Coast Variety, The Lower Natal Coast Variety, The South West Natal Variety, The Northern Natal Variety, The Northern-Swati Border Variety, The Natal-Eastern Cape Border Variety and the urban varieties.

Mngadi (1998:76)

  1. Does this language exist in a written form?

The writing of Zulu was started by missionaries in the then Natal. The names J W Colenso, S B Stone, H Callaway and Lewis Grant are among the prominent. They taught the first people with whom they made contact, spreading the word of God, basic writing skills in Zulu. Magema Fuze, Ndiyane and William were among the very first who were taught communicative English and basic writing skills at about 1830-1841. The first Zulu Christian booklet was produced by Newton Adams, George Newton and Aldin Grout bt 1837-8 titled Incwadi Yokuqala Yabafundayo which dealt with spelling of Zulu words and the history of the Old Testament.  Between 1845-1883, the first translated version of the Bible was produced in very old Zulu orthography. In 1859 the first Zulu Grammar Book by L. Grout was produced. The first Zulu Dictionary was produced by Perrin titled A Kafir-English of the Zulu Kafir Language as spoken by the tribes of the colony of Natal.

Ntuli DBZ, Makhambeni MN, Izimpande, (1998:100-135)

  1. Is there standardisation of the language?

One of the major contributions of the Zulu Language Board (now disbanded) was the standardisation of Zulu orthography rules, now taken over by the Pan South African Language Board, on issues like where to use capital letters in days of the week, e.g. UMgqibelo.

  1. Do you consider yourself a member of this linguistic community? If so, why?

Yes. It is the researcher’s first language.

  1. Where is this language spoken? What are its geographical boundaries?

In South Africa but more specifically in the provinces of: KwaZulu-Natal –72%, Gauteng – 17%, and Mpumalanga –7,7%, with speakers also in the Northern Province, Eastern Cape and Free State.

Table 2.11. The people of South Africa Population Census 1996, Report No: 03-01-11 [1996]

  1. Have these geographical boundaries changed over the years? If so, how have they altered?

Boundaries changed with the coming into being of the provinces of the Democratic South Africa.

  1. What is the physical terrain of this area alike?

Hills and valleys in KwaZulu-Natal, Industries and mines in Gauteng, hills and forests in Mpumalanga

  1. Are any other languages spoken within the same territory? If so, what are these?

The other major languages in the provinces with high concentrations of isiZulu are English in KwaZulu-Natal – 15,8% of the provincial population, siSwati in Mpumalanga – 30% of the provincial population, and Afrikaans and South Sotho in Gauteng – 16,7% and 13,1% respectively of the provincial population.

Table 2.8. Population Census 1996.

  1. Could you enclose a sketch or indicate the area in which the language is spoken? (If you wish, you can draw a sketch in the space on the next page)

See Appendix.

  1. What State(s) / country (ies) do/es the territory/ies where the language is spoken belong to?

The provinces all belong to South Africa.

  1. What is the total number of inhabitants (whether or not they speak this language) of this territory?

The total number of inhabitants in South Africa is 40583573 (Census 1996). The total number of inhabitants of each of the provinces with the highest concentrations of this language is as follows:

KwaZulu-Natal 8 417 021
Mpumalanga 2 800 711
Gauteng 7 348 423

Census in brief 1996

  1. How many of the inhabitants understand, speak or write this language?

Members of the Nguni group of languages viz. Zulu, Xhosa, Swati and Ndebele speak and understand Zulu since these languages are to a large extent mutually intelligible. The 1996 Census figures for each of these languages are as follows:

Zulu 22,9% = 9 200 144
Xhosa 17,9% = 7 196 118
Swazi 2,5% = 1 013 193
Ndebele 1,5% = 586 961
Tsonga 4,4% = 1 756 105
The languages spoken could be Zulu with Xhosa and/or Swati or Zulu with English and/or Afrikaans.
Understand 9 200 144 (isiZulu in the nine provinces)
Speak 9 200 144 (isiZulu in the nine provinces)

Regarding the number of people aged 20 or more who can read and write Zulu, an average percentage of African Blacks with no schooling is 24,3%, therefore 75,7 % has some literacy skills. The number of people who can read and write Zulu are estimated as 29,5% of literate adult African Blacks, i.e. 3 698 000.

Super Cross, Copyright @ 1993-2000 Space Time Research (Pty) Ltd

Use this space to draw a map or sketch of the territory where this language is spoken.

See Appendix.

  1. How many of the speakers are monolingual (only use this language)?

The number of (first) home language speakers as established by census 1996 is       9 200 144. Zulu is one of the Nguni languages and speakers of this family of languages tend to use the other sister languages as well. Monolingualism is difficult to determine under the circumstances.

  1. How many of the speakers are bilingual (use this and another language)? What other language(s) do they speak?

Approximately 13% of the African/Black population have indicated that they use a second language in the home. 13% of a total of 9 200 144 home language speakers would be 1 196 018. This figure is very low and contradicts the findings of other studies such as The Language Study of the SABC and Calteaux:

Calteaux,C.1995. A sociolinguistic analysis of a multilingual community. Unpublished doctoral thesis, Johannesburg, Rand Afrikaans University.

There are also 14 899 Coloured people, 5 330 Indian/Asian people and 11 899 White people who have indicated that they have Zulu as a second home language. Their first home language could be either English or Afrikaans.

  1. How many of the speakers are multilingual (speak this and more than one other language)? What other languages do they speak?

Other languages that Zulu speakers would be able to speak are the mutually intelligible Nguni languages, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swati, and English and/or Afrikaans. No exact figures are available, but mutilinguality would correlate with age, educational levels and living in the urban concentrations. 47,9% of the African/Black population aged 20 or more would have at least some secondary education. This would imply that they would have been taught English and to a lesser extent Afrikaans at school.

  1. Are speakers of this language dispersed throughout the territory, or are they concentrated in specific population centres?

In KwaZulu-Natal the speakers of Zulu are dispersed throughout this Province, 80% of the speakers are here. The other major language of KwaZulu-Natal is English at 15,8% followed by Afrikaans at 1,6% and Xhosa at 1,6%. In Gauteng Zulu is spoken in specific population centers like hostels (mining and other industrial hostels) and the Nguni sections of the Black townships of Gauteng.

  1. How has the number of speakers of this language evolved over time (increased, decreased or remained stable)?

The number has increased gradually as the population increased.

  1. Is the language passed down from generation to generation? If not, why not? What language is replacing it?

In KwaZulu-Natal the language is passed down from generation to generation but in Gauteng code mixing and code switching has taken root. The languages that are mixed and switched are Zulu with English for those who can speak it. Zulu is also mixed with South Sotho or with other Nguni languages especially Xhosa. Zulu forms the base language for “Iscamtho” which is a Township lingua franca used especially by Black youth as an exclusive “secret” language of identifying among themselves. (Ntshangase, D. 1992. Unpublished MA Thesis, University of Witwatersrand).
The languages used with Zulu do not replace the language for long. The code switched utterance could be repeated later in the conversation in just Zulu.

  1. Could you indicate how often the members of each generation use the language with other generations (old people with old people, young people with old people, etc) in their informal contacts (in the street, at home, in leisure time…)?

     … Speak the language with
The people... Elderly Men Elderly Women Adult Men Adult Women Young Men Young Women Boys Girls
Elderly Men 5 5 4 4 4 4 5 5
Elderly Women 5 5 4 4 4 4 5 5
Adult Men 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5
Adult Women 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5
Young Men 3 3 3 3 2 2 3 3
Young Women 3 3 3 3 2 2 3 3
Boys 5 5 5 5 3 3 5 5
Girls 5 5 5 5 3 3 5 5

Specify the frequency: 5 = always in this language; 4 = more in this language than others; 3 = equally often in either language; 2 = more in other languages than in this one; 1 = always in other languages.

  1. Do the speakers of other languages speak this language? In what circumstances?

Yes. In varying situations such as casual conversations, church gatherings and even community meetings. The Zulu do not take kindly to speaking other languages and with their numbers they dominate most gatherings including the ones above. Minority groups seem not to mind to speak Zulu. There is also a perception especially in Gauteng that Zulu is the language of the Taxi industry, so workers between townships and towns of this province use taxis, drivers of which speak Zulu.

  1. Is there any historical or economic factor that has affected the situation of this linguistic community?

Yes, apartheid has affected its development in the sense that prior to 1994 Zulu was not an official language despite the number of speakers who are a majority group. Consequently no financial aid came from the Government for the development and Corpus planning for this language, whilst huge sums of money were used for the development of the official languages of the then Government viz. English and Afrikaans. Economic migrant labour and industrialisation have interfered with the solidarity of speech communities.
Workplaces are multilingual and “new” languages emerge for communication, for example, mining FANAKALO, which for purists is a negative aspect that is taken as a violation of a language. First language speakers of Zulu hate FANAKALO of any kind, be it Garden, Kitchen, Trade or Mining Fanakalo

(Dube 1992 Language Attitudes in Soweto).

  1. Has any other factor directly influenced the growth or threatened the future of the language (migration, temporary labour, deportations, wars…)?

Yes, The love of the speakers for their language has influenced its growth. The Zulu are proud and conservative people. Any move to interfere with their language (be it in the name of improving or developing it) like borrowing terms from other languages is discouraged. In provinces like KwaZulu-Natal this language is guarded with jealousy, as it is the pride of the Zulu nation.
The Apartheid government threatened its growth by promoting English and Afrikaans to the status of the only two official languages of the country thus making the languages of power at the expense of the languages of majority groups. Zulu and other indigenous languages were not recognised nor were they used in any official capacity.

  1. Is the language currently threatened? If so, what is the cause?

Yes, English is the biggest threat. The workplaces still put proficiency in English as a prerequisite for employment. Little or no importance goes with Zulu as a language.
The Education system promotes the use of English from Grade 3 as a medium of instruction. Pupils speak Zulu at their homes. Zulu is done as a subject. This results in children valuing English more than Zulu. If there is a choice between studying Zulu or English, English rarely fails because of the emphasis put on the benefits one gets with the knowledge of English.

  1. Is the community that speaks this language in danger? If so, what is the cause?

The speech community in KwaZulu-Natal, the seat of this language, is getting stronger because the language is now (post-apartheid era) used as an official language in government.
Speech communities in the other provinces are threatened since this language is only an official language on paper (Government Gazette) the language does not enjoy the same status.

  1. Is there any internal migration (movement of the population within the territory)? Is there any external migration (movement out of the territory to others)? If so, what is the cause?

Yes, There is a lot of internal migration within the Republic of South Africa, across provinces and from rural to urban areas within provinces. The latter group (from rural to urban areas) was victimised by influx control laws and are now moving into cities in large numbers.

  1. What is the main economic activity of this community?

The community is largely agricultural in KwaZulu-Natal and industrial in Gauteng. In Mpumalanga they are both agricultural and industrial.

  1. What is the influence of religion on this community?

The rustic Zulu who have not been exposed to outside influences believe in existence of UMVELINQANGI, UMDALI (the creator) the Supernatural Being who creates and controls everything. He is in close liaison with the ancestors who in turn are in close liaison with the living.
Those who have come into contact with outside influences join religions like Christianity, Muslim and Traditional cum Christian religions like the Nazareth Church led by Rev. I Shembe (the first Rev. I Shembe 1913).
This type of religion combines traditional beliefs with Christian beliefs, for example, the members of this church wear traditional attire (Zulu) in their gatherings, they do believe in the existence of ancestral spirits, they read the bible and they pray to God and praise the ancestors

Pauw, BA 1963.African Christians and their ancestors in Hayward VE (ed)
African Independent Church Movements, London: Edinburgh House Press, pp 33-46.

  1. Does the language have any official status (official, joint-official language, acceptance…)?

According to the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Zulu is one of the eleven official languages of the country, others being Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, South Sotho, Swati, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda and Xhosa but it is not yet recognised and utilised as an official language (together with the other indigenous languages of South Africa) whereas English and Afrikaans enjoy the status of being official languages in every respect.

  1. Is the language in contact with the administration? Indicate whether its use in the administration is in spoken and/or written form.

In KwaZulu-Natal Zulu is used in Government and Public offices (official are expected to speak Zulu) They are trained and taught this language. Notices are in Zulu & English/ Afrikaans. Forms are in Zulu, English and sometimes Afrikaans.

  1. Is this language used in education (whether as the teaching medium or as a subject of study)? Indicate whether there is spoken and/or written use of the language in elementary and higher education.

Zulu is used as a medium of instruction in Zulu Schools in Grades 1 and 2 and thereafter only as a subject.

  1. Is this language used in the media (radio, newspapers and television…)?

Yes, very much in Radio: (uKhozi FM), News Papers: Ilanga LaseNatali its first editor was Rev. J.L Dube (1903) and it is still a leading Zulu Newspaper to date. The second one is UmAfrika.

  1. Is this language used in religious services and ceremonies? Indicate whether there is spoken or written use of the language in religious services and ceremonies.

Yes, It is the only language used when performing traditional Zulu worship rituals and ceremonies otherwise UMVELINQNGI and the ancestors will not understand.
For Christians the Bible was first translated into Zulu between 1845 – 1883 by the missionaries of the time. The earlier versions have been refined by the Bible Society. Ministers of Christianity and Christians use the translated version of the bible. Sermons are conducted in the language more accessible to the congregation.

  1. Is the language used in business and labour relations? Indicate whether the use is spoken and/or written.

Yes, some labour Unions do translate their documents from English to Zulu for distribution among Union members who can read Zulu.

  1. Are there any other areas in which this language is used in its written form?

Written Zulu in KwaZulu is used mainly in Notices in public offices and public places like Parks, Post Offices, Clinics and Hospitals.

  1. Is there any organisation or body responsible for linguistic policy and planning with respect to this language? What kind of activities does this perform?

Yes, the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB), as well as the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, look after the welfare of all languages of the country and initiate development and upliftment of all languages of the country. The Provincial Languages Committees deal mainly with the selection and prescription of school Literature Books within their provinces. They also liaise with Subject (Zulu) advisors for the promotion and development of Zulu as a language.

  1. Is there any kind of cultural or linguistic organisation or body which promotes the knowledge and/or use of the language? What kind of activities does this perform?

USIBA Writer’s Guild. Usiba stands for a PEN. This body looks into Oral literature. Written literature especially book reviews and cultural practices. The South African Folklore Society (SAFOS) is concerned with the revival of Folklore and its oral performance.

  1. Does the language have a literary tradition? If so, please give some information about this literary tradition.

Yes. Its oral tradition is very rich but its modern literature is still developing. J.L Dube was the first Zulu writer (1832) though his first publication was written in English: A Talk on my Native Land. The story was a Zulu story only written in English. In 1903 he concentrated in editing the newspaper Ilanga LaseNatali. His first Zulu novel Insila kaShaka was published in 1930. We see a steady growth of publications especially novels from 1930 onwards.
Other prominent writers following Dube were B.W Vilakazi: Noma Nini (1935), R.R.R Dhlomo with his historical novels on Zulu kings, i.e. UDingane (1936) UShaka (1937) UMpande (1938). The period between 1950 – '59 saw writers like Kenneth Bhengu uKhalalembube (1953), uKadebona (1958), and Sibusiso Nyembezi, Ubudoda Abukhulelwa (1953)
OEHM Nxumalo: Ikusasa Alaziwa (1961) was one of the prominent writers of the period 1960 – 1970. In the period 1970 – 1979, Joyce J Gwayi, the first woman writer, published historical novels such as Shumpu 1974.
The period 1980 – 1993 saw the publication of C.T Msimang’s (1982) Buzani kuMkabayi, is one of the best novels of the time.
In the other genres, i.e. essays and short stories, CGZ Ntuli’s Amawisa (1982) (essays) and DBZ Ntuli’s short stories in the same Amawisa are among the best.
Poetry – the first anthologies came out from 1935.  Well-known publications are:
BWV Vilakazi’s Inkondlo kaZulu (1935), Amal’eZulu (1945)
JC Dlamini Inzululwane (1957)
OEH Nxumalo Ikhwezi (1965)

Nimrod Ndebele UGubudele Namazimuzimu (1941)

  1. What is the attitude of the majority of the members of this community towards the knowledge and use of this language?

Very positive.

  1. What is the attitude of the majority of the members of the neighbouring communities towards the knowledge and use of the language?

They are all concerned with the development of their own languages.

  1. PLEASE ADD ANY OTHER DETAILS REGARDING THE SITUATION OF THE LANGUAGE WHICH YOU CONSIDER OF INTEREST. At the same time, we would be grateful if you could send us any statistics, reports, assignment or research that might help us to understand the situation of this language. It would also be very helpful if you could provide references of the sources consulted and the addresses of any individuals or bodies that may be able to offer further data about this language.

Zulu is a language spoken by over eight million people (8541173), 21% of the population of 39525998 to the estimates of 1990 (HSRC, 1991). Its seat is the province of KwaZulu-Natal but it has spread through migration to other provinces of South Africa and beyond. As a result Zulu is in contact and co-operation with other language varieties. Speakers of minority indigenous languages of SA prior to 1994, (Democratic South Africa) used to align themselves with Zulu at the expense of their respective languages especially in casual conversations.
The Zulu – English dictionary compiled by Doke and Vilakazi (1948) and the English – Zulu, Zulu – English dictionary published by Doke, Malcolm and Sikhakhane in 1958 have been combined and published by the Witwatersrand University Press (1990). A new preface by Professor JSM Khumalo is provided to update the tone markings and the orthography of Doke and Vilakazi’s Zulu – English dictionary.
Grammar Books
Doke’s Zulu Grammar book  (1948) was amongst the first grammar books on the language. Nxumalo’s IsiZulu A and Nyembezi’s uHlelo LwesiZulu are invaluable, for many a linguist has benefited from these texts.


Prof. DBZ Ntuli UNISA
Prof. JSM Khumalo University of the Witwatersrand
Prof. CT Msimang UNISA
Mr. LF Mathenjwa University of Zululand
Prof. AM Maphumulo University of Natal (Pietermaritzburg)
Dr BP Mngadi University of VISTA

Studies that have been conducted on Zulu and its varieties:

Kubheka I.S.  (1979):  A Preliminary Survey of Zulu Dialects in Natal and Zululand. Unpublished MA Thesis, University of Natal: Durban

Mngadi BP  (1998): Linguistic Variation in Zulu. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, Vista University

Nubian S E (1991): A Survey of the Northern Zululand Dialects in the Ingwavuma District. Unpublished MA Thesis, University of Natal: Durban

Zungu P.J.N.  (1995):  Language Variation in Zulu: A case study of contemporary codes and registers in the greater Durban area. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, University of Durban-Westville.