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Chichewa language: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spoken in  Zambia
Total speakers 9.3 million
Language family Niger-Congo
Official status
Official language in Zambia Zambia
Regulated by unknown
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ny
ISO 639-2 nya
ISO 639-3 nya

Chinyanja also known as Chichewa is a language of the Bantu language family widely spoken in south-central Africa. The prefix chi- means "the language of" so that "Chichewa" means "language of the Chewa tribe", and hence the language is also known simply as Chewa.



Chichewa is the national language of the Republic of Malawi and as Chinyanja is one of the seven official tribal languages of Zambia, where it is spoken mostly in the Eastern Province and in Lusaka. It is also spoken in Mozambique, especially in the provinces of Tete and Niassa, as well as in Zimbabwe where, according to some estimates, it ranks as the third most widely used local language, after Shona and Northern Ndebele.


Chinyanja/Chichewa has its origin in the Eastern Province of Zambia from the 15th century to the 18th century. The language remained dominant despite the breakup of the empire and the Angoni invasions and was adopted by Christian missionaries at the beginning of the colonial period.

In Zambia, where Chewa is spoken by other tribes like the Ngoni and the Kunda, the more neutral name chinyanja, "language of the lake" (referring to Lake Malawi), is hence used instead.

The first grammar, A grammar of the Chinyanja language as spoken at Lake Nyasa with Chinyanja-English and English-Chinyanja vocabulary , was written by Alexander in 1880 and partial translations of the Bible were made at the end of 19th century. Further early grammars and vocabularies include A vocabulary of English-Chinyanja and Chinyanja-English: as spoken at Likoma, Lake Nyasa[1] and A grammar of Chinyanja, a language spoken in British Central Africa, on and near the shores of Lake Nyasa,[2] by George Henry (1891).

A strong historic link of the Nyanja, Bemba and Yao people to the Shona empire, who can point their earlier origins to Mashonaland, proves linguistically evident today. The ancient Shonas who temporarily dwelt in Malambo, a place in the DRC, eventually shifted into northern Zambia, and then south and east into the highlands of Malawi. The Chinyanja language, ChiChewa or Chewa, emerged as a distinct tongue in the sixteenth century, according to scholars. In the twentieth century, the Chewa vocabulary and grammar is similar with Shona dialects, which are spoken in Zimbabwe, especially Zezuru and Manyika.


  1. ^ Woodward 1895
  2. ^ Henry 1891


  • George Henry, 1891. A grammar of Chinyanja, a language spoken in British Central Africa, on and near the shores of Lake Nyasa.
  • Woodward, M. E., 1895. A vocabulary of English-Chinyanja and Chinyanja-English as spoken at Likoma, lake Nyasa. Society for promoting Christian knowledge.

External links

Chichewa language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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