IsiZulu in South Africa


IsiZulu is also known as Zulu

History of IsiZulu

This prominent group of the Nguni people takes its name from the chief who founded the royal line in the 16th century. The warrior king, Shaka, raised the tribe to prominence in the early 19th century. The complicated Zulu etiquette was refined during his reign. The current monarch of the Zulu nation is King Goodwill Zweletini. The language Zulu, or isiZulu, is understood by people from the Cape to Zimbabwe. Zulu is also the written language of the Northern Nguni. It's also a tonal language.

The following overview of the language was written by B.P. Mngadi for Unesco's World Languages Report (2000):

The writing of Zulu was started by missionaries in the then Natal. The names J W Colenso, S B Stone, H Callaway and Lewis Grant are among the prominent. They taught the first people with whom they made contact, spreading the word of God, basic writing skills in Zulu. Magema Fuze, Ndiyane and William were among the very first who were taught communicative English and basic writing skills at about 1830-1841. The first Zulu Christian booklet was produced by Newton Adams, George Newton and Aldin Grout bt 1837-8 titled Incwadi Yokuqala Yabafundayo which dealt with spelling of Zulu words and the history of the Old Testament. Between 1845-1883, the first translated version of the Bible was produced in very old Zulu orthography. In 1859 the first Zulu Grammar Book by L. Grout was produced.

Its oral tradition is very rich but its modern literature is still developing. J.L Dube was the first Zulu writer (1832) though his first publication was written in English: A Talk on my Native Land. The story was a Zulu story only written in English. In 1903 he concentrated in editing the newspaper Ilanga LaseNatali. His first Zulu novel Insila kaShaka was published in 1930. We see a steady growth of publications especially novels from 1930 onwards. Other prominent writers following Dube were B.W Vilakazi: Noma Nini (1935), R.R.R Dhlomo with his historical novels on Zulu kings, i.e. UDingane (1936) UShaka (1937) UMpande (1938). The period between 1950 - '59 saw writers like Kenneth Bhengu uKhalalembube (1953), uKadebona (1958), and Sibusiso Nyembezi, Ubudoda Abukhulelwa (1953) OEHM Nxumalo: Ikusasa Alaziwa (1961) was one of the prominent writers of the period 1960 - 1970. In the period 1970 - 1979, Joyce J Gwayi, the first woman writer, published historical novels such as Shumpu 1974. The period 1980 - 1993 saw the publication of C.T Msimang's (1982) Buzani kuMkabayi, is one of the best novels of the time.

In the other genres, i.e. essays and short stories, CGZ Ntuli's Amawisa (1982) (essays) and DBZ Ntuli's short stories in the same Amawisa are among the best.


Family: Bantu (or rather Ntu) Language Family Group: South Eastern Bantu (or rather Ntu) Subgroup: Nguni


The Central KwaZulu Variety, The KwaZulu Coast Variety, The Natal Coast Variety, The Lower Natal Coast Variety, The South West Natal Variety, The Northern Natal Variety, The Northern-Swati Border Variety, The Natal-Eastern Cape Border Variety and some urban varieties.

Speakers of IsiZulu

Around 9 200 144 people in South Africa use it as their home language.