Languages

Nyanja

Fact corner

Introduction

Nyanja is a language of the Bantu language family widely spoken in south-central Africa. Nyanja is one of the two official national languages of the Republic of Malawi, the other being English, and as Nyanja is one of the seven official tribal languages of Zambia, where it is spoken mostly in the Eastern Province. 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 Ndebele.

The verb

The verb consists of a stem which normally doesn't change, and a pronoun-prefix which varies with the subject.

  • Infinitives all start with "ku-"; for example, "to eat" is "kudya, and "to go" is kupita.
  • Multisyllabic verbs in Nyanja are modified in tense, number, person, and form by prefixes, infixes, and/or suffixes.
    • "I will go" is ndizapita: "ndi-" is the first person singular, "-za-" is the (future) tense, and "-pita" is go, as before.
    • The negative form of verbs is formed by "si-" or "sa-"; "I will not go" is sindizapita.
    • Rude imperatives are easy: the verb root will suffice. For example, Pita! will send a person off.
    • Adding the suffix "-ni" makes the command more polite, and the additional addition of "-ko" makes it particularly polite. Pitaniko -- "please go, please" -- might be used when pleading with a chief to go to an important meeting.

Sample verb: ona

 PresentImperative
Sg.1Ndiona 
Sg.2Uonaona!
Sg.3Aona 
Pl.1Tiona 
Pl.2Muonaonani!
Pl.3Aona 

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