Chewa - Nyanja

Chicheŵa - Chinyanja

1.  Classification / Classification

This language belongs to the Nyanja Group of Bantu (Guthrie G30) (Webbook).

According to Ethnologue: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, N, Nyanja (N.30)

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

It is spoken in Malawi (where it is known as Chewa or Chichewa) and in Zambia (where it is known as Nyanja or Chinyanja). It is also spoken in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Tanzania. (Webbook)

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

7,000,000 in Malawi (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk); 1,600,000 in Zambia (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk); 497,671 in Mozambique (1997 census); 251,800 in Zimbabwe; Total=9,349,471 (Ethnologue)

Ethnologue mentions "400,000 second-language speakers (1999 WA)."

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

According to Ethnologue by country:

Malawi: Chewa (Chichewa, Cheva, Sheva), Ngoni, Manganja (Waganga, Cimanganja), Nyasa, Peta (Cipeta, Maravi, Marave, Malawi). Most Ngoni in Malawi speak Chewa or Tumbuka.

Mozambique: Chewa (Cewa, Chichewa, Cicewa), Ngoni (Cingoni), Nyanja (Cinyanja).

Zambia: Chewa (Cewa), Peta (Cipeta, Chipeta, Malawi, Maravi, Marave), Chingoni (Ngoni), Manganja (Waganga), Nyasa, Kunda.

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Chewa is an official language in Malawi. Nyanja is an official language in Zambia, a lingua franca in Lusaka. Zambia has radio broadcasts in Nyanja as well as a monthly magazine. Malawi has radio broadcasts in Chewa. The Malawi department of information and tourism publishes Boma Latha, a Chichewa daily. (Webbook)

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

A standardized Latin-based orthography for Chewa in Malawi exists, as does one for Nyanja in Zambia, differences are minimal. (Webbook, with modifications)

Chewa has one diacritical character, a "bilabial" "w" marked with a circumflex: ŵ (recent information has it that this character is no longer used, since it is not essential for meaning and may actually reflect pronunciation in one particular area - 11-2015)

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

A table at gives some information for Cinyanja in Mozambique.

Sample text in "Nyanja (Chewa)" on the "Language Museum" site:

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

With the exception of the w with circumflex used in Chewa (Latin extended-A?, U+0174 & U+0175) a font for European languages would suffice. [verify]

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

None known.

7.3  Content on computers & internet / Contenu en informatique et sur l'Internet

Chikalata Cha Mgwirizano Chofotokoza Za Ufulu Wa Chibadwidwe Wa Munthu Aliyense (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) :

Wikipedia in Chewa at (currently there are only a few shells for articles)

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

None known of but a project in Malawi is beginning.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

Chewa (Chichewa) and Nyanja (Chinyanja):

  • ISO 639-1: ny
  • ISO 639-2: nya
  • ISO 639-3: nya

7.6  Locales / Paramètres régionaux

7.7  Other / Autre

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

9.  Comments / Remarques

Would one localisation suffice for Chewa and Nyanja, or would two separate ones be necessary?

There is apparently a USAID funded "Last Mile Initiative" project to "expand the access of the rural poor to communications" in the Chewa/Nyanja speaking region (crossing borders). Seeking info on localization angles. The project site does not have info as of 2006-8-8:

10.  References / Références

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, (page on "Chewa/Nyanja," )

Mchombo, Sam, Chichewa, (offline; access old pages via )

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Nyanja,"

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables,"

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2: Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: Alpha-3 codes arranged alphabetically by the English name of language,"

Wikipedia, "Chichewa Language,"

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Categories: Languages, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, NE Zimbabwe