1. The sounds of the Zulu-Kafir tongue are usually expressed by means of the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet, five being employed for the vowels, seventeen for the consonants, three for clicks, and one for a harsh guttural.
2. The five vowels in simple syllables, (those, namely, which end in a vowel, as most syllables do in Zulu), as a general rule, are sounded as follows : —
a as in the English father
e as in the English there
i as in the English ravine
o as in the English pole
u as in the English rule
Sometimes, however, in a simple syllable the vowel has a closer sound ; and words of different meaning, which may be spelt alike, are distinguished by this difference in the sound of the vowels.
Ex. kwathi qwa (a as in father), it resounded as a thing struck;
kwathi qwa (a as in fat), it was perfectly white.
bhala, write (a as in balm), bala, count (a as in banish).
In compound syllables, the sounds of the vowels, similar to the above, are necessarily closer and shorter.
4. There are no diphthongs in Zulu. But the sound of the vowels au, when uttered rapidly, approaches to that of the diphthong ou in English.
Ex. awu! oh! (expressing dislike or astonishment).
5. The seventeen consonants are those of the English language, except c, q, x, and r; and they are pronounced as in English, except that g is always hard, as in go, give.
6. The two English sounds of c are represented in Zulu by k and g, and that of q by kw ; while that of x is not required, since the combination ks does not occur in Zulu.
The English sound of r is also foreign to the Zulu tongue; and the natives, in attempting to pronounce it, will usually give it the sound of l. Most of them, however, if required to do so, will sound the r without much difficulty.
Ex. uViktolia, Victoria; iKafula, a Kafir.
N.B. The natives speak of themselves as abantu, ‘ people,’ and of a single person as umuntu; they never use iKafula, except disparagingly; thus lowo’muntu ul’ikafula nje, ‘ that man is merely a Kafir’
— a low, beggarly fellow. And this term also would be generally used in Zululand in speaking of Natal natives.
The word Kafir, however, means in Arabic ‘ unbeliever,’ and in that sense is applied to the English by the Mahomedan natives of India, as it was probably applied to the natives of these parts or their forefathers by the Mahomedan tribes, which they passed in their descent along the Eastern coast of Africa.
7. The letters c, q, x, are taken to represent the dicks, which are sounds not heard in any European language, being used to denote the dental, palatal, and lateral clicks respectively, so called from their being uttered by thrusting the tongue against the top of the front teeth, the roof of the mouth, and the side-teeth, and suddenly withdrawing it.
The ‘ clicks ‘ used by the Kafir tribes have apparently increased in number as the tribes have advanced further towards the South — perhaps from closer contact with the Hottentots (amaLau) and Bushmen (izicwe, ama Busumane), who use a great variety of these sounds; whereas the Zulus employ scarcely any clicks, the Natal Kafirs only three or four, the amaXhosa Kafirs many more.
The remaining letter r is taken to represent the guttural which is sounded like the strong German ch, as heard in auch, noch.
But this sound is usually softened down among the Natal natives to that of h; so that in books intended for their use such sounds may be denoted by r or h.
Ex. Zulu-Katir Natal-Kafir
rola, draw hola umrau, strong emotion umhau
There is another sound occurring in some Zulu words, which may be pronounced either as a guttural from the bottom of the throat or as a click in a peculiar way. But the sound must be heard in order to be imitated. We shall denote it by x among Italic, or x among Roman letters; and the proper sound may be got from a native.
Ex. ixwa a sort of umkhonto or assegai; xeza, milk into one’s mouth; ixoba, distant hill-fire; ixosa, glutton; xweba, scratch.
9. There is a slight aspiration heard in very many words (as in Hebrew or Hibernian English) after the letters b, g, d, k, p, t. This will account for some roots, which in the dictionaries appear identical, having a difference of meaning, which a native would indicate by difference in enunciation.
Ex. kona, it; but khona, there.
kwako, its; but kwakho, thine.
bala, count; but bhala, write.
tetema, be nice in eating; thatha, take.
A nasal aspirate also may be heard, but very rarely.
Ex. nhinhiza, mumble, speak low or indistinctly.
10. The student must carefully distinguish between hl and dl, since there are some words, very different in meaning, which only differ in sound by the insertion of the d. Compare in English thigh and thy, thousand and thou.
Ex. hlala, stay ; dlala, play, frolic.
behlile, they having descended; bedlile, they have eaten.
bahlulile, they have conquered (by might, &c.)
badhlulile, they have surpassed (in speed, height, &c).
N.B. The sound of hl in the above is that of the Welsh II, as in Llanelly, and resembles somewhat thl, not shl, with which English people are prone to confound it, saying, for instance, Umshlali for Umhlali, where Umthlali would be nearer the mark, though not the exact representative of the true sound of the aspirate in this case, which is uttered by touching with the tongue the front of the palate (not the root of the front-teeth, as with th), and then withdrawing it.
11. No consonant can end a syllable in Zulu, except m or n; and these frequently express initial nasal sounds, when it might be supposed that they were final.
Ex. ha-mba, a-ba-ntu, be-ngi-tha-nda, not ham-ba, a-ban-tu, be-ngi-
than-da; but i-zim-vu, i-zin-ti, um-ntwa-na.
The student will easily learn to make these distinctions as he proceeds.
12. The accent in Zulu falls always, as a rule, on the penultimate syllable in each word.
Ex. inkosi, chief; igama, name; yena, he; hambani, go ye; njalo, so.
But some interjections are accented on the ante- penultimate.
Ex. yebuya! yelula!
Hence, from the last syllable of a noun being more faintly utttered, its vowel is often heard indistinctly, or is even dropped altogether. This accounts for many slight variations in spelling, when words have been taken down from native lips, the unaccented vowel having been heard as e or i, o or u, or we, u or wa.
Ex. ubane or ubani, flash of lightning.
umtulu or umtulwa, sort of wild medlar.
uxamo, uxamu, or uxam’, kind of iguana.
inkos’, amas’, abalam’, for inkosi, chief, amasi, sour-milk, abalamu, wife’s brothers or sisters.
13. The interrogative particle na (which is equivalent to a note of interrogation in English, and need not generally be translated in words) takes the accent with emphasis.
Ex. lo’muntu ung’ubani na? this man, he is who?
14. Hut the particle ke, when placed after the word, forms, as it were, a part of the word itself, and acts as an enclitic, that is to say, it draws the accent forward upon the final syllable of the word.
Ex. yena-ke, he then; hambani-ke, go ye then; njalo-ke, so then.
15. And the interrogative particlces ni, ‘what,’ phi,. ‘where,’ placed after the verb, have a similar effect upon the accent of the verb.
Ex. nifuna-ni-na? y<ni you seek what? wakhe-phi-na? where dost thou live? (literally, where hast thou built?)
16. In like manner, when a noun or verb is closely connected with a succeeding monosyllable, or with a
dissyllable whose initial vowel has been elided so as to form, as it wore, one word with it, the accent is naturally drawn backwards.
Ex. indlu, house; indlu’nye. one house; umnini. owner, umnini-lo, its owner.
17. (Some words, though. spelt alike, are distinguished in utterance by the voice being depressed on a certain syllable, the accent remaining, as usual, on the penultimate.”
Ex. beka, put down; bheka, look;
umuzi, hemp or flax in the rough state, umuzi, kraal;
inyanga, skilled adept, native doctor, inyanga, moon;
ucebile, he has devised, ucebile, he is rich ;
izindebe, lips; izindebe, calabash-dippers.
N.B. The difference in soiind in the case of beka may be easily heard by making a native read the following sentence, in which the word occurs twice in each sense: – Wabeka isandla phezu kwayo, wabuza wathi, ‘ Ubona’lutho na? ‘ Yab’is’iphakamisa ubuso, yabeka yathi, ‘ Ngibona abantu abahambayo, befana nemithi.’ uJesu wabuya wabeka isandla futhi phezu kwamehlo ayo, wathi ‘ Beka-ke! ‘
18. In conjugating verbs it will be seen that the second and third persons singular are often alike in form. But a stress is thrown upon the pronoun in the former case and on the verb-root in the latter.
Ex. uyathanda, thou lovest; uyathanda, he loves.
uthandile, thou hast loved; uthandile, he has loved.
watanda, thou lovedst ; wathanda, he loved.
19. The Kafir Language is very ill adapted for the composition of hymns in rhyme.
In most attempts of this kind, the same rhymes will recur continually, e.g. bethu, wethu, sethu, &.C., or bakho, lakho, kwakho, &c., varied, perhaps, occasionally by bonke, konke, zonke, &.C., which are only different forms for our, thy, all, respectively. This arises from the fact that hymns, which are generally addresses to the Deity or expressions of individual or united worship, must involve a frequent use of the personal pronouns, my, thy, our, &c. And the pronouns in Zulu are much more prominent and sonorous than in English, .and will generally fall into their place at the end of each line, instead of being expended in the middle of it.
Again, the regular fall of the accent on the penultimate makes the ordinary Long, Common, and Short Metres of English Psalmody utterly unsuitable for Zulu hymns.
These tunes should on no account be used for this purpose. The practice of so doing arises from want of due consideration, or else from mere want of taste. Missionaries too often compel the natives to offend against all the laws of accentuation, and force the rhythm of their own words, not once or twice, but constantly, in singing, in order to accommodate our favourite tunes. Let any Englishman attempt to sing the line ‘O’er the gloomy hills of darkness,’ to any L.M. or CM. tune, and he will soon be convinced of the frightful effect which the singing of words to such tunes must have upon the ear of the natives, until by degrees the taste becomes wholly perverted.
But for prose hymns, suited for chanting, like the Psalms, or for metrical hymns, without rhyme, the Zulu language is very well adapted.
The metre, however, will require to be trochaic in its character. Any tunes, for instance, which are used for Sevens, may, by repeating the last note of each line, be converted into a tune for Eights, in which each line will consist of four trochees, such as ‘Hark, what mean those holy voices!’ and these can be easily supplied with Zulu words.
The greatest difficulty, however, in composing metrical pieces in Zulu arises from the fact that this language consists largely of monosyllables, several of which are often connected together to form a single word.
Thus, from the adjective de, ‘ long,’ is formed the adverb kade, ‘for a long while’; and from this and the verb-root ma, ‘stand,’ and one of the noun-inflexes (12), is formed the noun isimakade, plur. izimakade, which is used to express anything of primeval antiquity, such as an ancient tree, a rock, &c. The natives would dread some calamity, if they cut off all the branches of such a tree. Hence the expression inkosi isimakade, ‘the King Eternal.’
From the same root we have the adverbs phakade and naphakade, and hence the noun unaphakade, which appears usually, with other particles prefixed, in the form kubeng’unaphakade or kuzekubeng’unaphakade, ‘ to all eternity.’