Northern Ndebele


1.  Classification / Classification

Ndebele is a language in the Nguni group of Bantu (Guthrie S40). (Webbook)

Ethnologue lists the classifications of northern Ndebele as: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, S, Nguni (S.40)

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

Northern Ndebele mainly in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe with some in Botswana.

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to information compiled from Ethnologue:

  • Northern Ndebele
    • 1,550,000 in Zimbabwe (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk)
    • 8,000 in Botswana (2002)
    • Population total all countries: 1,558,000

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Ownby (personal communication, 1986) notes that "there are three distinct dialects of Ndebele: Northern Transvaal Ndebele (on the verge of extinction), Southern Transvaal Ndebele and that spoken in Zimbabwe." (Webbook)

J.A. Louw (personal communication, 1982) reports (Ndzunda-Manala) Ndebele is "a Zulu dialect insofar as it is mutually intelligible with Zulu." (Webbook)

Ethnologue notes that Ndebele of South Africa and Ndebele of Zimbabwe are different. The latter (Northern Ndebele) is "close to Zulu."

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Ndebele is taught as a subject in Zimbabwean schools. (Webbook)

Literacy rate of Ndebele in Zimbabwe (according to Ethnologue, accessed 2007):

  • L1: ?
  • L2: 55%

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

Ndebele has a standardized orthography. (Webbook) It is Latin-based.

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

A text sample for Ndebele (without clarity as to which kind) is shown on the "Language Museum" site:

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

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

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

Ndebele, North (Zimbabwe)

  • ISO 639-1: nd
  • ISO 639-2: nde
  • ISO 639-3: nde

7.6  Other / Autre

The Open Knowledge Network apparently had a Ndebele version of its project software (no further info).

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

The possibility that localisation of northern Ndebele (Zimbabwe) may benefit from work on Zulu should be investigated.

10.  References / Références

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, (page on "Ndebele," )

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Ndebele [Zimbabwe],"

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, "Zimbabwean Ndebele language,"

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