This chapter discusses the socio-political history of the Shona language. The term Shona was officially coined by Clement Doke, a professor of Bantu languages at the University of the Witwatersrand, to refer to an amalgamation of several mutually intelligible dialects and sub-dialects spoken in different provinces of Zimbabwe. The five main dialects of this language are Zezuru, Karanga, Manyika, Ndau and Korekore. However, the new Constitution of Zimbabwe (2013) officially recognizes Ndau as a separate language. Shona is one of the 16 officially recognized languages in Zimbabwe. It has a long history of standardization and intellectualization, and since the advent of political independence in 1980, it has been one of the national official languages of Zimbabwe together with Ndebele and English. Shona is well-studied and has been used in the development of various creative genres since the 1930s. It cannot, therefore, be counted as one of the endangered languages of southern Africa for a variety of reasons. First, literacy in the language is transmitted through formal education from elementary school to university level. Second, it is used orally by all generations and is effectively used in written form. Third, it is acquired as a first language by a majority of Zimbabweans and as a second language by speakers of other languages in the country. Its vitality is, thus, unquestionable.


Shona Dialect(s) Standardization Zimbabwe Politics Language policy Unification of Shona dialects 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maxwell Kadenge
    • 1
  1. 1.Linguistics DepartmentUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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