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Hi Smashhoof2! I recognise your name from a Discord server. I'm glad you're here and if you have any questions on how to help contribute to our Zulu content (or anything else), please feel free to ask. I've attached our standard welcome message below; feel free to poke through it, but it's a lot of links, so don't worry too much about the details.


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Again, welcome! —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 00:41, 20 March 2018 (UTC)


See User talk:Metaknowledge/2017#Swahili mali, Zulu imali. I see that you changed it back, but I'm not sure on what basis. —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 19:51, 26 December 2018 (UTC)

I haven't seen any evidence that it comes from English, and if it does, the sound change is odd. You say it probably went through a non-Bantu language before reaching Zulu, but which one? Given the similar forms in Swahili, Shona, and Rwanda-Rundi (and probably more languages), I find it more likely to be a Wanderwort from Swahili (which of course is from Arabic). There are other Wanderworts which have spread through sub-Saharan Africa, such as isikhathi, and umlungu. (The latter is found in a very wide area of the Bantu speaking regions and is a very old Wanderwort.) --Smashhoof2 (talk) 20:03, 26 December 2018 (UTC)
I finally found a good modern source, namely Sergio Baldi (who agrees with you). I will take out the "probably" and reference him in the entries when I get a chance. Since you brought it up, I'd be curious to learn more about the root of umlungu and when it can be dated to. —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 01:45, 27 December 2018 (UTC)
Thanks for finding a source. As for umlungu, I noticed many Bantu languages have similar words for "white person". I searched through some dictionaries and compiled a short list of cognates.
  • Swahili - Mzungu
  • Comorian - Mzungu
  • Luganda - oMuzungu
  • Chichewa - Mzungu
  • Kinyarwanda - umuzungu
  • Bemba - musungu
  • Ekegusii - omosongo
  • Chisena - muzungo
  • Shona - muRungu
  • Zulu - umlungu
  • Shiyeyi - muzungu
  • Yao - Msungu
  • Kikuyu - mũthũngũ
  • Sisumbwa - muzungu
  • Luba - muzungu
I found that BLR3 actually has a Proto-Bantu reconstruction *jʊ́ngʊ̀, with three variations: *cʊ̀ngʊ́, *dʊ̀ngʊ̀, díʊ́ngʊ̀. I made the following map which shows which Bantu zones have reflexes of each variant.
This is a modification of Edricson's Bantu zones map. It shows which Bantu zones have reflexes of the various forms of the Proto-Bantu word for "white person."
The most likely case is that *jʊ́ngʊ̀ is the original form, which was then borrowed across various languages at some point after the divergence of the Bantu languages from their common ancestor, but long enough ago that there are regular sound correspondences between many of the modern Bantu languages. From *jʊ́ngʊ̀, *cʊ̀ngʊ́ can be explained as devoicing of the initial consonant. *dʊ̀ngʊ̀ and díʊ́ngʊ̀ are likely adaptations into languages which lacked that palatal consonant but approximated it another way. It's possible there was a chain *jʊ́ngʊ̀ > díʊ́ngʊ̀ > dʊ̀ngʊ̀. I don't have an explanation for the tonal variations. I would guess that this word spread through the Bantu languages 1000 to 2000 years ago, but it's only a rough estimate, not based on anything empirical. --Smashhoof2 (talk) 03:23, 27 December 2018 (UTC)

Module Errors in Module:zu-nounsEdit

Whenever you edit a module, always check Category:Pages with module errors aka CAT:E, preferably over an hour or more. I'm not sure what the error is, but there are more than two dozen entries (starting with "l") in that category that weren't there yesterday, and on the ones I checked, your edits to this module are the only change I could find.

Please either fix it or revert your changes until you can figure out what's wrong. Thanks! Chuck Entz (talk) 20:47, 15 February 2019 (UTC)

Sorry, I will fix it. Smashhoof (talk) 20:56, 15 February 2019 (UTC)
Ok, I fixed it. I will check CAT:E from now on. I didn't know that existed. Smashhoof (talk) 21:47, 15 February 2019 (UTC)

There are HHH nouns in ZuluEdit

For example úmsebênzi. The falling tone reveals the tones on the last two syllables as HH. The accent on the first syllable of the prefix shows that the first syllable of the stem is also H, as it blocks the prefix tone shifting. —Rua (mew) 18:18, 30 April 2019 (UTC)

@Rua There's no distinction between HL prefixes and LH prefixes before toned roots of 3 or more syllables. The two tone patterns are interchangeable as far as I can tell. According to Khumalo (1982), the only possible tone patterns on trisyllabic roots are LLL, LLH, HLH, LHL, and LFL (same as LHH). According to Khumalo's tone rules, low prefix tone shift should always apply before LHL or LFL roots, so it would be uḿsebênzi. Poulos, in his grammar of Zulu, gives example words such as àmábhàmúza, ísìgèbéngù, ábázìngélì, and úm̀dàyîsì, which seems to show that the choice of HL, LH, or HH on the prefix of these roots is either arbitrary or a dialectal variation. On page 556, he says that the HH prefix is a dialectal spreading from original HL. What we can take from this is that HL is the original pattern. Spreading to HH is complete before LL and LH roots, but not all speakers apply this rule to LHL and LFL roots. From HH, some dialects have delinking of the first tone, so it becomes LH. This delinking is widespread in Zulu, but it seems to not be universal (at least before trisyllabic roots). This is also what distinguishes tone shift in Zulu (umúntu and isibingelêlo) from tone spread in siSwati (úmúntfu and síbíngélêlo). Presumably Khumalo's data comes from a dialect which uses the LH prefixes. Smashhoof (talk) 18:53, 30 April 2019 (UTC)
Synchronically, that may be the case, but in Doke's transcription, there is very clearly a high tone on the first syllable of the prefix. This is only explainable as the result of a historical stem-initial high tone. Are there cases of high tone remaining on the first prefix syllable where this is very clearly not historically motivated? —Rua (mew) 18:58, 30 April 2019 (UTC)
Doke's transcription a bit inconsistent and not totally reliable. This is actually noted by Khumalo in the preface to the combined English-Zulu/Zulu-English version of Doke's dictionary. Regardless, an initial high tone in úmsebênzi is explainable as the lack of application of low prefix tone shift, and doesn't imply an underlying HHH pattern. I'm not sure we can give a historical explanation for the tone of úmsebênzi, because as far as I know, the etymology of sebénza is unknown. However, since H verbs in Proto-Bantu take the H tone on the first syllable, we could suppose it was historically sébenza. Most of the nouns derived from trisyllabic H verbs in Doke's dictionary use a HL prefix, however I did manage to find a few examples of LH: uḿhlonîshwa ( derived from -hlonípha; uḿsháyelo ( derived from -shayéla, uḾgqibélo ( derived from gqibéla, and uḿdayísi ( derived from -dayísa. The tone given for umshayelo is very strange and I'm not sure how to explain it. It's worth noting that many (but not all) nouns derived from trisyllabic H verbs seem to take a HLL pattern on the root according to Doke, although this tone pattern does not exist according to Khumalo. I'm not sure what to think about that.
Also note the differences between Poulos and Doke: amábhamúza (Poulos) / ámabhamúza (Doke,, ísigebéngu (Poulos) / isígebéngu (Doke,, ábázingéli (Poulos) / ábazingéli (Doke,, ísíbusíso (Poulos) / ísibusíso or ísibusîso (Doke, or, and úmdayîsi (Poulos) / uḿdayísi (Doke,
My opinion is that Doke's informants mostly lacked low prefix tone shift in these contexts, while Khumalo's had it, and Poulos had a mix of both. Smashhoof (talk) 20:43, 30 April 2019 (UTC)
There aren't any two-syllable cases that I know of, where the prefix tone shift fails. Do you know any LH nouns that have a HL prefix? Also, the prefix tone shift is attested more widely than just Zulu, the other Nguni languages also have it. So we'd expect to get more information from a language like Xhosa, where there is spreading rather than shifting.
Given that the surface outcome of original HHx is the same as original LHx due to the left-deletion rule, it seems likely that Zulu speakers simply lost track of which stems originally had a high first syllable and which didn't, since the prefix is the only way to know and that doesn't work for class 9. So analogical changes became possible, either by extending the HL prefix to all 3-syllable stems, or the LH prefix. I think that is the cause of the chaotic situation we see today. As if often the case, though, some dialects may be more archaic than others. I know that some Zulu dialects lack the left-deletion rule and keep all the intermediate high tones much like Xhosa, though I don't know exactly which ones. Such dialects would be expected to not participate in this analogical change and keep HHx and LHx stems distinct.
The question then is what we do on Wiktionary. If the vast majority of Zulu speakers can no longer tell HHx apart from LHx, then it makes sense that we don't either. But we still have to choose one particular notation for such nouns in order to be consistent, and to avoid giving the impression that there is any real difference between them. Do we show them with HL prefix or LH? Which is more prevalent? We have to take into account possible dialects that do still keep them distinct. —Rua (mew) 20:59, 30 April 2019 (UTC)
Oh, and another thing. You mentioned that Doke systematically indicates a HL prefix on nouns derived from high-toned verbs. But is there a distinction between verbs with a LHx pattern and a HHx pattern, either synchronically or reconstructable for an earlier stage of the language? Or do all high-toned verbs uniformly have a high tone on the first syllable? —Rua (mew) 21:03, 30 April 2019 (UTC)
In my opinion, we should go with what Khumalo says, since he has written the most comprehensive description of Zulu tone, as far as I'm aware. Doke's work is a bit dated, and Poulos's grammar only briefly discusses tone. There definitely needs to be more research on Zulu tone, and especially variation between dialects and between different Nguni languages. For your other question, I don't think there can be a distinction between LHx verbs and HHx verbs because verbs are basically H vs L (with the exception of an extra HH class in CVC roots). The four examples I gave above were the only ones I found where the derived noun had a LH prefix instead of HL. However, some of the nouns derived from high verbs are HL-LHL, and some are HL-HLL. Smashhoof (talk) 21:11, 30 April 2019 (UTC)

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