The Nambya language, called chiNambya by its speakers, is spoken by about 80,000 people in northwestern Zimbabwe, parts of Botswana, and a smaller number in the recent diaspora.
Nambya is a Bantu language, most closely related to Kalanga in southwestern Zimbabwe and the Shona varieties in central and eastern Zimbabwe. Nambya shares about 75% of its core vocabulary with literary Standard Shona. The language is under great social pressure from Tonga and Ndebele and often borrows words from those languages, as well as from English.
Some basic phrases
Good morning, how are you? — mamuka chini?
Fine thanks, and you? — ndamuka wamuka chini?
What is your name? — ndiwani izina lilo? My name is . . . — izina langu ndimi . . .
How do I get to Hwange? — ndoswika chini kuWankie?
When are you coming? — unozha lini?
The Nambya people have an interesting life — BaNambya bana nobupenyu bunonakilija.
Where is there good food? — kulya kuboda kunowanikwa kupi?
goodbye — topela tobonana good luck — ubene mhazha imbodo
yes — iyi no — pepe
please — ndakumbila thank you — taboka
l love you — ndokuda
If you don’t learn Nambya, the monsters will eat you at night!
— Kana usinoziba chiNambya, unolyiwa nezwipuka busiku!
Mazhuba emviki (Days of the week)
Imviki inamazhuba mashanu namabili
Nambya has the standard features of Bantu languages:
- Typical word order is: SUBJECT – VERB – OBJECT.
- Nouns belong to one of many noun classes and have a relevant class prefix in the singular and plural.
- Verbs have a subject marker (related to the noun class of the subject), followed by various tense and mood markers, the root, various verb extensions, and a final vowel.
- Almost all syllables end with a vowel. Syllables can have either a low or a high tone, which can change the meaning of the word or phrase.
There is a grammar and dictionary of Nambya compiled by Fr. Augustine Moreno with the Nambya Cultural Association. Both are currently out of print.
Sample text — opening of the summary of the Abridged Constitution of Zimbabwe (2013) (for more)
Igapo lyezwokulonganyila kukwalwa kweBumbilo lyemilawo yenyika, lye Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC), lyakwalulula iBumbilo lyemilawo yenyika yeZimbabwe 2013, yeli mubufupi bwalyo kutila kuti bunji bwabanhu buwane kuwhisisisa zwilokwalwa mubumbilo.IBumbilo lyemilawo linamapeji izana linamakumi mashana anamakumi mabili namabili (172). Igapo lyeCOPAC lyabona zwikakwelela kuta alo, kuti unhu ani azwe usina unshaji wokubala ibumbilo lyose, kana abala ifupiso yeli, unowana luzibo pezhulu pebumbilo yeli.