About Shona

Shona, also known as chiShona is a Bantu language primarily spoken by the Shona people of Zimbabwe, Central Africa. It is one of the sixteen official languages of Zimbabwe. Ethnologue lists Shona speakers as slightly over 9 million. According to the Penn Center, 75% of Zimbabweans speak Shona as a mother tongue. The language has several dialects, such as Zezuru, Karanga, Manyika, Hera and Korekore. In the urban centers, the speakers mainly use standard Shona which is based on the Zezuru, Manyika and Karanga dialects.

The Shona are famed for building an ancient magnificent stone city known as Great Zimbabwe. The ruins of this ancient city are located close to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. According to, the name ‘Zimbabwe’ is a Shona word meaning “stone houses”.

According to Ethnologue, Shona has an SVO, noun head initial grammar with 13 noun classes. It has 31 consonants, 5 vowels and 2 diphthongs; though some sites such as claim that there are no diphthongs in Shona. Shona is a tonal language. It is also phonetic.

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Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.