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Chewa (also known as Nyanja , is a Bantu language spoken in much of Southern, Southeast and East Africa, namely the countries of Malawi and Zimbabwe, where it is an official language and Mozambique and Zambia where it is a recognised minority language. The noun class prefix chi- is used for languages, so the language is usually called Chichewa and Chinyanja (spelled Cinianja in Mozambique). In Malawi, the name was officially changed from Chinyanja to Chichewa in 1968 at the insistence of President Hastings Kamuzu Banda (himself of the Chewa people), and this is still the name most commonly used in Malawi today. In Zambia, the language is generally known as Nyanja or Cinyanja/Chinyanja '(language) of the lake' (referring to Lake Malawi).
Chewa is the most widely known language of Malawi, spoken mostly in the Central and Southern Regions of that country. "It is also one of the seven official African languages of Zambia, where it is spoken mostly in the Eastern Province and Lusaka Province (the Lusaka Nyanja dialect). It is also spoken in Mozambique, especially in the provinces of Tete and Niassa, as well as in Zimbabwe where, according to some estimates, it ranks as the third-most widely used local language, after Shona and Northern Ndebele." It was one of the 55 languages featured on the Voyager spacecraft.
The Chewa were a branch of the Maravi people who lived in the Eastern Province of Zambia and in northern Mozambique as far south as the River Zambezi from the 16th century or earlier.
The name "Chewa" (in the form Chévas) itself is first recorded by António Gamitto, who at the age of 26 in 1831 was appointed as second-in-command of an expedition from Tete to the court of King Kazembe in what is now Zambia. His route took him through the country of King Undi west of the Dzalanyama mountains, across a corner of present-day Malawi and on into Zambia. Later he wrote an account including some ethnographic and linguistic notes and vocabularies. According to Gamitto, the Malawi or Maravi people (Maraves) were those ruled by King Undi south of the Chambwe stream (not far south of the present border between Mozambique and Zambia), while the Chewa lived north of the Chambwe.
Apart from a few words recorded by Gamitto, the first extensive record of the Chewa language was made by Johannes Rebmann in his Dictionary of the Kiniassa Language, published in 1877 but written in 1853-4. Rebmann was a missionary living near Mombasa in Kenya, and he obtained his information from a Malawian slave, known by the Swahili name Salimini, who had been captured in Malawi some ten years earlier. Salimini, who came from a place called Mphande apparently in the Lilongwe region, also noted some differences between his own dialect (which he called Kikamtunda, the language of the plateau) and the Maravi dialect (Kimaravi) spoken further south; for example, the Maravi gave the name mombo to the tree which he himself called kamphoni.
The first grammar, A Grammar of the Chinyanja language as spoken at Lake Nyasa with Chinyanja-English and English-Chinyanja vocabulary, was written by Alexander Riddel in 1880. Further early grammars and vocabularies include A grammar of Chinyanja, a language spoken in British Central Africa, on and near the shores of Lake Nyasa by George Henry (1891) and M.E. Woodward's A vocabulary of English-Chinyanja and Chinyanja-English: as spoken at Likoma, Lake Nyasa (1895). The whole Bible was translated into the Likoma Island dialect of Nyanja by William Percival Johnson and published as Chikalakala choyera: ndicho Malangano ya Kale ndi Malangano ya Chapano in 1912. Another Bible translation, known as the Buku Lopatulika ndilo Mau a Mulungu, was made in a more standard Central Region dialect about 1900-1922 by missionaries of the Dutch Reformed Mission and Church of Scotland with the help of some Malawians. This has recently (2016) been reissued in a revised and slightly modernised version.
Another early grammar, concentrating on the Kasungu dialect of the language, was Mark Hanna Watkins' A Grammar of Chichewa (1937). This book, the first grammar of an African language to be written by an American, was a work of cooperation between a young black PhD student and young student from Nyasaland studying in Chicago, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who in 1966 was to become the first President of the Republic of Malawi. This grammar was also the first to mark the tones of the words.
In recent years the language has changed considerably, and a dichotomy has grown between the traditional Chichewa of the villages and the language of city-dwellers.
Chewa has five vowel sounds: /a, ?, i, ?, u/; these are written a, e, i, o, u. Long or double vowels are sometimes found, e.g. áákúlu 'big' (class 2), kufúula 'to shout'. When a word comes at the end of a phrase, its penultimate vowel tends to be lengthened, except for non-Chewa names and words, such as Muthárika or ófesi, in which the penultimate vowel always remains short. The added 'u' or 'i' in borrowed words such as láputopu 'laptop' or íntaneti 'internet' tends to be silent or barely pronounced.
Chewa consonants can be plain (i.e. followed by a vowel), labialised (i.e. followed by w), or palatalised (i.e. followed by or combined with y):
ba, kha, ga, fa, ma, sa etc.
bwa, khwa, gwa, fwa, mwa, swa etc.
bza, khya, ja, fya, nya, sha etc.
In this scheme, the place of bya is taken by the palatalised affricate bza, and the place of gya is taken by ja, and sya is replaced by sha.
Another way of classifying the consonants is according to whether they are voiced, unvoiced, aspirated, nasal, or continuant:
ba, da, ga
pa, ta, ka
pha, tha, kha
ma, na, ng'a
wa, la, ha
Voiced and aspirated consonants, as well as [f] and [s], can also be preceded by a homorganic nasal:
mba, ngwa, nja, mva, nza etc.
mpha, nkhwa, ntcha, mfa, nsa etc.
The possible consonant combinations can thus be arranged on a table as follows:
Table of Chewa consonants
The spelling used here is that introduced in 1973, which is the one generally in use in the Malawi at the present time, replacing the Chinyanja Orthography Rules of 1931.
Notes on the consonants
In most words, Chewa b and d (when not prenasalised) are pronounced implosively, by sucking slightly. However, there is also an explosive b and d, mostly found in foreign words, such as bála 'bar', yôdúla 'expensive' (from Afrikaans duur) (in contrast to the implosive b and d in native words such as bála 'wound' and yôdúla 'which cuts'). An explosive d is also found in kudínda 'to stamp (a document)' and mdidi 'confident step'.
The affricate sounds bv and pf were formerly commonly heard but are now generally replaced by b and f, e.g. (b)vúto 'problem', (p)fúpa 'bone'. In the Mtanthauziramawu wa Chinyanja dictionary produced by the University of Malawi, the spellings bv and pf are not used in any of the headwords, but bv is used two or three times in the definitions.
The combination bz is described by Atkins as an "alveolar-labialised fricative". The combination sounds something like [b?] or [bz?]. Similarly ps is pronounced something like [p?] or [ps?].
The sounds written ch, k, p and t are pronounced less forcibly than the English equivalents and generally without aspiration. Stevick notes that in relaxed speech, the first three are sometimes replaced with the voiced fricatives [?], [?] and [?], and t can be heard as a voiced flap. In the combination -ti (e.g. angáti? 'how many'), t may be lightly aspirated.
h is also used in Chewa but mostly only in loanwords such as hotéra 'hotel', hátchi 'horse', mswahála 'monthly allowance given to chiefs'.
j is described by Scotton and Orr as being pronounced "somewhat more forward in the mouth" than in English and as sounding "somewhere between an English d and j ".
l and r are the same phoneme, representing a retroflex tap [?], approximately between [l] and [r]. According to the official spelling rules, the sound is written as 'r' after 'i' or 'e', otherwise 'l'. It is also written with 'l' after a prefix containing 'i', as in lilíme 'tongue'.
m is syllabic [m?] in words where it is derived from mu, e.g. m'balé 'relative' (3 syllables), mphunzitsi 'teacher' (4 syllables), aná?patsa 'he gave him' (5 syllables). However, in class 9 words, such as mphátso 'gift', mbale 'plate', or mfíti 'witch', and also in the class 1 word mphaká 'cat', the m is pronounced very short and does not form a separate syllable. In Southern Region dialects of Malawi, the syllabic m in words like mkángo 'lion' is pronounced homorganically, i.e. [.ká.o] (with three syllables), but in the Central Region, it is pronounced as it is written, i.e. [m?.ká.o].
n, in combinations such as nj, ntch, nkh etc., is assimilated to the following consonant, that is, it is pronounced [?] or [?] as appropriate; ny is pronounced [?], In words of class 9, such as njóka 'snake' or nduná 'minister' it is pronounced very short, as part of the following syllable. However, [n] can also be syllabic, when it is contracted from ndi 'it is' or ndí 'and', e.g. ?'kúpíta 'and to go'; also in the remote past continuous tense, e.g. ankápítá 'he used to go'. In some borrowed words such as bánki or íntaneti the combinations nk and nt with non-syllabic n can be found but not in native words.
ng is pronounced [?g] as in 'finger' and ng' is pronounced [?] as in 'singer'. Both of these consonants can occur at the beginning of a word: ngoma 'kudu', ng'ombe 'cow or ox'.
w in the combinations awu, ewu, iwu, owa, uwa (e.g. mawú 'voice', msewu 'road', liwú 'sound', lowa 'enter', duwa 'flower') although often written is generally not pronounced.
?, a "closely lip-rounded [w] with the tongue in the close-i position", was formerly used in Central Region dialects but is now rarely heard, usually being replaced by 'w'. ("It is doubtful whether the majority of speakers have [?] in their phoneme inventory" (Kishindo).) The symbol '?' is generally omitted in current publications such as newspapers. In the dialects that use the sound, it is found only before a, i, and e, while before o and u it becomes [w]. To some linguists (e.g. Watkins) it sounds similar to the Spanish [?].
zy (as in zyoliká 'be upside down like a bat') can be pronounced [?].
Like most other Bantu languages, Chewa is a tonal language; that is to say, the pitch of the syllables (high or low) plays an important role in it. Tone is used in various ways in the language. First of all, each word has its own tonal pattern, for example:
munthu[mu.?t?u] 'person' (Low, Low)
galú[?a.?ú] 'dog' (Low, High)
mbúzi[?bú.zi] 'goat' (High, Low)
chímanga[tí.ma.a] 'maize' (High, Low, Low)
Usually there is only one high tone in a word (generally on one of the last three syllables), or none. However, in compound words there can be more than one high tone, for example:
chákúdyá[tá.kú.á] 'food' (High, High, High; derived from chá + kudyá, 'a thing of eating')
A second important use of tone is in the verb. Each tense of the verb has its own characteristic tonal pattern (negative tenses usually have a different pattern from positive ones). For example, the present habitual has high tones on the initial syllable and the penultimate, the other syllables being low:
ndí-ma-thandíza 'I (usually) help'
ndí-ma-píta 'I (usually) go'
The recent past continuous, on the other hand, has a tone on the third syllable:
sabatá yátha 'the week which has ended (i.e. last week)'
A third use of tones in Chewa is to show phrasing and sentence intonation. For example, immediately before a pause in the middle of a sentence the speaker's voice tends to rise up; this rise is referred to as a boundary tone. Other intonational tones are sometimes heard, for example a rising or falling tone at the end of a yes-no question.
Chewa nouns are divided for convenience into a number of classes, which are referred to by the Malawians themselves by names such as "Mu-A-", but by Bantu specialists by numbers such as "1/2", corresponding to the classes in other Bantu languages. Conventionally, they are grouped into pairs of singular and plural. However, irregular pairings are also possible, especially with loanwords; for example, bánki 'bank', which takes the concords of class 9 in the singular, has a plural mabánki (class 6).
When assigning nouns to a particular class, initially the prefix of the noun is used. Where there is no prefix, or where the prefix is ambiguous, the concords (see below) are used as a guide to the noun class. For example, katúndu 'possessions' is put in class 1, since it takes the class 1 demonstrative uyu 'this'.
Some nouns belong to one class only, e.g. tomáto 'tomato(es)' (class 1), mowa 'beer' (class 3), malayá 'shirt(s)' (class 6), udzudzú 'mosquito(es)' (class 14), and do not change between singular and plural. Despite this, such words can still be counted if appropriate: tomáto muwíri 'two tomatoes', mowa uwíri 'two beers', malayá amódzi 'one shirt', udzudzú umódzi 'one mosquito'.
Class 11 (Lu-) is not found in Chewa. Words like lumo 'razor' and lusó 'skill' are considered to belong to class 5/6 (Li-Ma-) and take the concords of that class.
Mu-A- (1/2): munthu pl. anthu 'person'; mphunzitsi pl. aphunzitsi 'teacher'; mwaná pl. aná 'child' (1a/2): galú pl. agalú 'dog'. Class 1a refers to nouns which have no m- prefix. The plural a- is used only for humans and animals. It can also be used for respect, e.g. aphunzitsi áthu 'our teacher' (1a/6): kíyi pl. makíyi 'key'; gúle pl. magúle 'dance' (1a): tomáto 'tomato(es)'; katúndu 'luggage, furniture'; feteréza 'fertilizer' (no pl.)
Mu-Mi- (3/4): mudzi pl. midzi 'village'; mténgo pl. miténgo 'tree'; moyo pl. miyoyo 'life'; msika pl. misika 'village' (3): mowa 'beer'; móto 'fire'; bowa 'mushroom(s)' (no pl.)
Li-Ma- (5/6): dzína pl. maína 'name'; vúto pl. mavúto 'problem'; khásu pl. makásu 'hoe'; díso pl. masó 'eye' Often the first consonant is softened or omitted in the plural in this class. (6): madzí 'water', mankhwála 'medicine', maló 'place' (no sg.)
Chi-Zi- (7/8): chinthu pl. zinthu 'thing'; chaká pl. zaká 'year' (7): chímanga 'maize'; chikóndi 'love' (no pl.)
I-Zi- (9/10): nyumbá pl. nyumbá 'house'; mbúzi pl. mbúzi 'goat' (10): ndevu 'beard'; ndíwo 'relish'; nzerú 'intelligence' (no sg.) (9/6): bánki pl. mabánki 'bank'
Ka-Ti- (12/13): kamwaná pl. tianá 'baby'; kanthu pl. tinthu 'small thing' (12): kasamalidwe 'method of taking care'; kavinidwe 'way of dancing' (no pl.) (13): tuló 'sleep' (no sg.)
U-Ma- (14): usíku 'night time'; ulimi 'farming'; udzudzú 'mosquito(es)' (no pl.) (14/6): utá pl. mautá 'bow'
Ku- (15): kuóna 'to see, seeing'
Pa- (16): pakamwa 'mouth'
Ku- (17): kukhosi 'neck'
Mu- (18): mkamwa 'inside the mouth'
Pronouns, adjectives, and verbs have to show agreement with nouns in Chichewa. This is done by means of prefixes, for example:
Uyu ndi mwaná wángá 'this is my child' (class 1)
Awa ndi aná ángá 'these are my children' (class 2)
Ichi ndi chímanga chánga 'this is my maize' (class 7)
Iyi ndi nyumbá yángá 'this is my house' (class 9)
Class 2 (the plural of class 1) is often used for respect when referring to elders. According to Corbett and Mtenje, a word like bambo 'father', even though it is singular, will take plural concords (e.g. bambo anga akuyenda, ndikuwaona 'my father is walking, I see him'); they note that to use the singular object-marker -mu- would be 'grossly impolite'.
The various prefixes are shown on the table below:
Table of Chewa concords
Although there are 17 different noun classes, because some of them share concords there are in fact only 12 sets of prefixes.
Examples of the use of concords
In the examples below, the concords are illustrated mainly with nouns of classes 1 and 2.
Demonstratives 'this' and 'that'
uyu ndaní? 'who is this?'; awa ndaní? 'who are these?' (or: 'who is this gentleman?' (respectful))
For classes other than classes 1 and 2, a demonstrative is used instead of a freestanding pronoun, for example in class 6 ichi or icho. But forms prefixed by ná- and ndi- such as nácho and ndichó are found.
yénse, yékha, yémwe
The three pronominal adjectives yénse 'all', yékha 'alone', yémwe 'that same' (or 'who') have the same pronominal concords yé- and (w)ó-, this time as prefixes:
Maláwi yénse 'the whole of Malawi'; aná ónse 'all the children'
yékha 'on his/her own'; ókha 'on their own'
mwaná yemwéyo 'that same child'; aná omwéwo 'those same children'
In classes 2 and 6, ó- often becomes wó- (e.g. wónse for ónse etc.).
The word áliyensé 'every' is compounded from the verb áli 'who is' and yénse 'all'. Both parts of the word have concords:
mwaná áliyensé 'every child'; aná awíri álionsé 'every two children'
As with other Bantu languages, all Chewa verbs have a prefix which agrees with the subject of the verb. In modern Chewa, the class 2 prefix (formerly ?a-) has become a-, identical with the prefix of class 1:
mwaná ápita 'the child will go'; aná ápita 'the children will go'
The perfect tense (wapita 'he/she has gone', apita 'they have gone') has different subject prefixes from the other tenses (see below).
The relative pronoun améne 'who' and demonstrative améneyo use the same prefixes as a verb:
mwaná améne 'the child who'; aná améne 'the children who'
mwaná ábwino a good child'; aná ábwino 'good children'
In the same way wá 'of' combines with the ku- of the infinitive to make verbal adjectives. Wá + ku- usually shortens to wó-, except where the verb root is monosyllabic:
mwaná wókóngola 'a beautiful child'; aná ókóngola 'beautiful children'
mwaná wákúbá 'a thieving child'; aná ákúbá 'thieving children'
-ína 'other' and -ení-éní 'real'
The same w- and a- concords are found with the words -ína 'other' and -ení-éní 'real'. In combination with these words the plural concord a- is converted to e-:
mwaná wína 'a certain child, another child'; aná éna 'certain children, other children'
mwaná weníwéní 'a real child'; aná eníéní 'real children'
Certain adjectives (-kúlu 'big', -ng'óno 'small'; -(a)múna 'male', -kázi 'female'; -táli 'long', 'tall', -fúpi 'short'; -wisi 'fresh') have a double prefix, combining the possessive concord (wá-) and the number concord (m- or mw-):
mwaná wá?kúlu 'a big child'; aná áákúlu 'big children'
mwaná wá?ng'óno 'a small child'; aná ááng'óno 'little children'
mwaná wámwámúna 'a male child'; aná áámúna 'male children'
mwaná wá?kázi 'a female child'; aná áákázi 'female children'
Early dictionaries, such as those of Rebmann, and of Scott and Hetherwick, show that formerly the number of concords was greater. The following changes have taken place:
Class 2 formerly had the concord ?a- (e.g. ?anthu a?a 'these people'), but this has now become a- for most speakers.
Class 8, formerly using dzi- (Southern Region) or bzi/bvi/vi- (Central Region) (e.g. bzaká bzi?íri 'two years'), has now adopted the concords of class 10.
Class 6, formerly with ya- concords (e.g. mazira aya 'these eggs'), now has the concords of class 2.
Class 11 (lu-) had already been assimilated to class 5 even in the 19th century, although it still exists in some dialects of the neighbouring language Tumbuka.
Class 14, formerly with bu- concords (e.g. ufá bwángá 'my flour'), now has the same concords as class 3.
Class 13 (ti-) had tu- in Rebmann's time (e.g. tumpeni utu 'these small knives'). This prefix still survives in words like tuló 'sleep'.
In addition, classes 4 and 9, and classes 15 and 17 have identical concords, so the total number of concord sets (singular and plural) is now twelve.
Formation of tenses
Tenses in Chichewa are differentiated in two ways, by their tense-marker (or tense-infix), and by their tonal pattern. Sometimes two tenses have the same tense-marker and differ in their tonal pattern alone. In the following examples, the tense-marker is underlined:
ndi-ku-gúla 'I am buying'
ndí-ma-gúla 'I usually buy'
ndi-ma-gúla 'I was buying', 'I used to buy'
ndí-dzá-gula 'I will buy (tomorrow or in future)'
ndí-ká-gula 'I will buy (when I get there)'
One tense has no tense-marker:
ndí-gula 'I will buy (soon)'
Tenses can be modified further by adding certain other infixes, called 'aspect-markers', after the tense-marker. These are -má- 'always, usually' -ká- 'go and', -dzá 'come and' or 'in future', and -ngo- 'only', 'just'. These infixes can also be used on their own, as tense-markers in their own right (compare the use of -ma- and -dza- in the list of tenses above). For example:
mténgo w-a-gwa (for *u-a-gwa) 'the tree has fallen'
The subject-marker can be:
Personal: ndi- 'I', u- 'you (singular)', a- 'he, she', ti- 'we', mu- 'you (plural or polite)', a- 'they'; 'he/she (respectful or polite). (In the perfect tense, the subject-marker for 'he, she' is w-: w-a-pita 'he has gone'.)
Impersonal: a- (class 1, 2 or 6), u- (class 3 or 14), i- (class 4 or 9), li- (class 5), etc.
Locative: ku-, pa-, mu-
An example of a locative subject-marker is:
m'madzí muli nsómba 'in the water there are fish'
Both the 2nd and the 3rd person plural pronouns and subject-markers are used respectfully to refer to a single person:
mukupíta 'you are going' (plural or respectful)
apita 'they have gone' or 'he/she has gone' (respectful)
Except in the perfect tense, the 3rd person subject marker when used of people is the same whether singular or plural. So in the present tense the 3rd person subject-marker is a-:
akupíta 'he/she is going'
akupíta 'they are going', 'he/she is going' (respectful)
But in the perfect tense wa- (singular) contrasts with a- (plural or respectful):
wapita 'he/she has gone'
apita 'they have gone', 'he/she has gone' (respectful)
When the subject is a noun not in class 1, the appropriate class prefix is used even if referring to a person:
mfúmu ikupíta 'the chief is going' (class 9)
tianá tikupíta 'the babies are going' (class 13)
An object-marker can also optionally be added to the verb; if one is added it goes immediately before the verb-stem:
ndí-ma-ku-kónda 'I love you' (ndi = 'I', ku = 'you')
The object-marker can be:
Personal: -ndi- 'me', -ku- 'you', -mu- or -m'- 'him, her', -ti- 'us', -wa- or -a- 'them', 'him/her (polite)'. In the 2nd person plural, -ni is added to the end of the verb, e.g. ndí-ma-ku-kónda-ni 'I love you (plural or polite)'.
Impersonal: -mu- (class 1), -wa- (class 2), -u- (class 3 or 14), etc.
Locative: e.g. m'nyumba mu-ku-mú-dzíwa 'you know the inside of the house'; but usually a locative suffix is used instead: nd-a-oná-mo 'I have seen inside it'
Reflexive: -dzi- 'himself', 'herself', 'themselves', 'myself', etc.
Variety of tenses
Chewa has a large number of tenses, some of which differ in some respects from the tenses met with in European languages. The distinction between one tense and another is made partly by the use of infixes, such as -na- and -ku-, and partly by the intonation of the verb, since each tense has its own particular tonal pattern.
Near vs. remote
There are five time-frames (remote past, near past, present, near future, and remote future). The distinction between near and remote tenses is not exact. The remote tenses are not used of events of today or last night, but the near tenses can sometimes be used of events of earlier or later than today.
Perfect vs. past
Another distinction is between perfect and past. The two perfect tenses imply that the event described still has some relevance now:
nd-a-gula 'I have bought some' (and still have it) (Perfect)
ndi-ná-gula or ndi-dá-gula 'I bought some' (and still have it) (Remote Perfect)
The two past simple tenses usually imply that the result of the action has been reversed in some way:
ndi-na-gúla 'I bought some (but no longer have it)' (Recent Past)
ndí-ná-a-gúla (or ndí-dá-a-gúla) 'I bought some (but no longer have it)' (Remote Past)
When used in narrating a series of events, however, these implications are somewhat relaxed: the Remote Perfect is used for narrating earlier events, and the Recent Past for narrating events of today.
Perfective vs. imperfective
Another important distinction in Chewa is between perfective and imperfective aspect. Imperfective tenses are used for situations, events which occur regularly, or events which are temporarily in progress:
ndi-nká-gúlá 'I used to buy', 'I was buying (a long time ago)'
ndi-ma-gúla 'I was buying (today)', 'I used to buy (a long time ago)'
ndí-zi-dza-gúla 'I will be buying (regularly)'
In the present tense only, there is a further distinction between habitual and progressive:
ndí-ma-gúla 'I buy (regularly)'
ndi-ku-gúla 'I am buying (currently)'
One future tense not found in European languages is the -ká- future, which 'might presuppose an unspoken conditional clause':
ndí-ká-gula 'I will buy' (if I go there, or when I get there)
The following tenses refer to potentiality as well as time:
ndi-nga-gule 'I can buy'
ndi-kadá-gula 'I would have bought'
There are also two subjunctive mood tenses, as follows:
ndi-gulé 'I should buy'
ndi-zí-gúlá 'I should be buying'
Negative tenses, if they are main verbs, are made with the prefix sí-. They differ in intonation from the positive tenses. The negative of the -ná- tense has the ending -e instead of -a:
sí-ndí-gula 'I don't buy'
sí-ndi-na-gúle 'I didn't buy'
Tenses which mean 'will not' or 'have not yet' have a single tone on the penultimate syllable:
si-ndi-dza-gúla 'I won't buy'
si-ndi-na-gúle 'I haven't bought (it) yet'
Infinitives, participial verbs, and the subjunctive make their negative with -sa-, which is added after the subject-prefix instead of before it. They similarly have a single tone on the penultimate syllable:
The tenses used in certain kinds of dependent clauses (such as relative clauses and some types of temporal clauses) differ from those used in main clauses. Dependent verbs often have a tone on the first syllable. Sometimes this change of tone alone is sufficient to show that the verb is being used in a dependent clause. Compare for example:
a-ku-gúla 'he is buying'
á-kú-gúla 'when he is buying' or 'who is buying'
Other commonly used dependent tenses are the following (the last of these is toneless):
ndí-tá-gúla 'after I bought'
ndí-sa-na-gúle 'before I buy'
ndi-ka-gula 'when / if I buy'
After the verb stem one or more extensions may be added. The extensions modify the meaning of the verb, for example:
gul-ir-a 'buy for' or 'buy with'
gul-ir-an-a 'buy for one another'
gul-ik-á 'get bought', 'be for sale'
gul-its-a 'cause to get bought, i.e. sell'
gul-its-idw-a 'be sold (by someone)'
Extensions which have an intensive or stative meaning tend to have a high tone, e.g. yang'anitsitsá 'look carefully', pitirirá 'carry on, keep going', guliká 'be saleable, get bought'; however, there are some exceptions such as oneka 'seem'.
Most extensions, apart from the reciprocal -ana 'one another', have two possible forms, e.g. -ira/-era, -itsa/-etsa, -ula/-ola. The forms with e and o are used if the verb stem is monosyllabic or has an e or o in it, e.g.
dy-er-a 'eat with',
ton-ol-a 'remove grains of corn from the cob'
bwe-re-ra 'come back'
The forms with i and u are used with the verb stem has a, i, or u:
sungun-ul-a 'melt (something)'
kan-ik-á 'fail to happen'
Story-writers and playwrights
The following have written published stories, novels, or plays in the Chewa language:
An urban variety of Nyanja, sometimes called Town Nyanja, is the lingua franca of the Zambian capital Lusaka and is widely spoken as a second language throughout Zambia. This is a distinctive Nyanja dialect with some features of Nsenga, although the language also incorporates large numbers of English-derived words, as well as showing influence from other Zambian languages such as Bemba. Town Nyanja has no official status, and the presence of large numbers of loanwords and colloquial expressions has given rise to the misconception that it is an unstructured mixture of languages or a form of slang.
The fact that the standard Nyanja used in schools differs dramatically from the variety actually spoken in Lusaka has been identified as a barrier to the acquisition of literacy among Zambian children.
The concords in Town Nyanja differ from those in Chichewa described above. For example, classes 5 and 6 both have the concord ya- instead of la- and a-; class 8 has va- instead of za-; and 13 has twa- instead of ta-. In addition, the subject and object marker for "I" is ni- rather than ndi-, and that for "they" is ?a- (spelled "ba-") rather than a-.
^The UMCA in Malawi, p 126, James Tengatenga, 2010: "Two important pieces of work have been accomplished during these later years. First, the completion by Archdeacon Johnson of the Bible in Chinyanja, and secondly, the completed Chinyanja prayer book in 1908."
Hyman, Larry M. & Sam Mchombo (1992). "Morphotactic Constraints in the Chichewa Verb Stem". Proceedings of the Eighteenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society: General Session and Parasession on The Place of Morphology in a Grammar (1992), pp. 350-364.
Hyman, Larry M. & Al D. Mtenje (1999a). "Prosodic Morphology and tone: the case of Chichewa" in René Kager, Harry van der Hulst and Wim Zonneveld (eds.) The Prosody-Morphology Interface. Cambridge University Press, 90-133.
Hyman, Larry M. & Al D. Mtenje (1999b). "Non-Etymological High Tones in the Chichewa Verb", Malilime: The Malawian Journal of Linguistics no.1.