The Nguni languages are a group of Bantu languages spoken in southern Africa by the Nguni peoples. Nguni languages include Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele (sometimes referred to as "Northern Ndebele"), Swati, Hlubi, Phuthi, Bhaca, Lala, Nhlangwini, Southern Transvaal Ndebele, and Sumayela Ndebele. The appellation "Nguni" derives from the Nguni cattle type. Ngoni (see below) is an older, or a shifted, variant.
It is sometimes argued that use of Nguni as a generic label suggests a historical monolithic unity of the peoples in question, where in fact the situation may have been more complex. The linguistic use of the label (referring to a subgrouping of Bantu) is relatively stable.
The Nguni languages are closely related, and in many instances different languages are mutually intelligible; in this way, Nguni languages might better be construed as a dialect continuum than as a cluster of separate languages. On more than one occasion, proposals have been put forward to create a unified Nguni language.
In scholarly literature on southern African languages, the linguistic classificatory category "Nguni" is traditionally considered to subsume two subgroups: "Zunda Nguni" and "Tekela Nguni." This division is based principally on the salient phonological distinction between corresponding coronal consonants: Zunda /z/ and Tekela /t/ (thus the native form of the name Swati and the better-known Zulu form Swazi), but there is a host of additional linguistic variables that enables a relatively straightforward division into these two substreams of Nguni.
Maho (2009) also lists S401 Old Mfengu+
The following aspects of Nguni languages are typical:
Compare the following sentences:
|English||"I like your new sticks"|
|Zulu||Ngiyazithanda izinduku zakho ezintsha|
|Xhosa||Ndi-ya-zi-thanda ii-ntonga z-akho ezin-tsha|
|Northern Ndebele||Ngiyazithanda intonga zakho ezintsha|
|Southern Ndebele||Ngi-ya-zi-thanda iin-ntonga z-akho ezi-tjha|
|Hlubi||Ng'ya-zi-thanda iin-duku z-akho ezintsha|
|Swazi||Ngi-ya-ti-tsandza ti-ntfonga t-akho letin-sha|
|Mpapa Phuthi||Gi-ya-ti-tshadza ti-tfoga t-akho leti-tjha|
|Sigxodo Phuthi||Gi-ya-ti-tshadza ti-tshoga t-akho leti-tjha|
Note: Xhosa ⟨tsh⟩ = Phuthi ⟨tjh⟩ = IPA [t]; Phuthi ⟨tsh⟩ = [tsh]; Zulu ⟨sh⟩ = IPA [?], but in the environment cited here /?/ is "nasally permuted" to [t?]. Phuthi ⟨jh⟩ = breathy voiced [d] = Xhosa, Zulu ⟨j⟩ (in the environment here following the nasal [n]). Zulu, Swazi, Hlubi ⟨ng⟩ = [?].
|English||"I understand only a little English"|
|Zulu||Ngisizwa kancane isiNgisi|
|Xhosa||Ndisi-qonda ka-ncinci nje isi-Ngesi|
|Northern Ndebele||Ngisizwisisa kancane isiKhiwa |
|Southern Ndebele||Ngisi-zwisisa ka-ncani nje isi-Ngisi|
|Hlubi||Ng'sivisisisa kancani nje isingisi|
|Swazi||Ngi-siva ka-ncane nje si-Ngisi|
|Mpapa Phuthi||Gisi-visisa ka-nci të-jhë Si-kguwa|
|Sigxodo Phuthi||Gisi-visisa ka-ncinci të-jhë Si-kguwa|
Note: Phuthi ⟨kg⟩ = IPA [x].