|Region||Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South in Zimbabwe; North-East District in Botswana|
|1.6 million (2012)|
Official language in
|The Ndebele Language|
|People||amaNdebele (prev. Matabele)|
Northern Ndebele (English: //), also called Ndebele, amaNdebele, Zimbabwean Ndebele or North Ndebele, and formerly known as Matabele, is an African language belonging to the Nguni group of Bantu languages, spoken by the Northern Ndebele people, or Matabele, of Zimbabwe.
Northern Ndebele is related to the Zulu language, spoken in South Africa. This is because the Northern Ndebele people of Zimbabwe descend from followers of the Zulu leader Mzilikazi (one of Zulu King Shaka's generals), who left the Zulu Kingdom in the early 19th century, during the Mfecane, arriving in present-day Zimbabwe in 1839.
Although there are some differences in grammar, lexicon and intonation between Zulu and Northern Ndebele, the two languages share more than 85% of their lexicon. To prominent Nguni linguists like Anthony Cope and Cyril Nyembezi, Northern Ndebele is a dialect of Zulu. To others like Langa Khumalo, it is a language. Distinguishing between a language and a dialect for language varieties that are very similar is difficult, with the decision often being based not on linguistic but political criteria.
Northern Ndebele and Southern Ndebele (or Transvaal Ndebele), which is spoken in South Africa, are separate but related languages with some degree of mutual intelligibility, although the former is more closely related to Zulu. Southern Ndebele, while maintaining its Nguni roots, has been influenced by the Sotho languages.
A third grouping which has historically been marginalized are the Langa Ndebele. These are the descendants of Masibibe ka Langalibalele. There are two main groupings which are both recognised as chieftaincies. These are The Mapela (42 villages), and the Bakenberg (52 villages).
|Plosive||ejective||p [pʼ]||t [tʼ]||k [kʼ]|
|voiced||bh [b]||d [d]||ɡ [ɡ]|
|aspirated||ph [pʰ]||th [tʰ]||kh [kʰ]|
|prenasalized||mp [ᵐp]||nt [ⁿt]||nk [ᵑk]|
|prenasalized (vd.)||mb [ᵐb]||nd [ⁿd]||ng [ᵑɡ]|
|Fricative||plain||f [f]||s [s]||sh [ʃ]||h [h]|
|voiced (depr.)||b [βʱ]||v [vʱ]||z [zʱ]||zh [ʒʱ]||(k [ɣʱ])||(h [ɦ])|
|voiced (non-depr.)||b [β]||(k [ɣ])|
|prenasalized||mf [ᶬf]||ns [ⁿs]|
|prenasalized (vd.)||mv [ᶬv]||nz [ⁿz]|
|Nasal||plain||m [m]||n [n]||ny [ɲ]||ngh [ŋ]|
|depressed||m [mʱ]||n [nʱ]||ny [ɲʱ]||ngh [ŋʱ]|
|Lateral fricative||plain||hl [ɬ]|
|prenasalized (vd.)||ndl [ⁿɮ]|
|Approximant||plain||w [w]||y [j]|
|depressed||w [wʱ]||y [jʱ]|
|Lateral approximant||plain||l [l]|
|Affricate||voiceless||ejective||ts [tsʼ]||tj [tʃʼ]||kl [kxʼ]|
|aspirated||tsh [tsʰ]||tjh [tʃʰ]|
|prenasalized||ejective||nts [ⁿtsʼ]||ntjh [ᶮtʃʼ]||nkl [ᵑkxʼ]|
Many consonant sounds may result in depressed (or breathy) allophones. Alveolar consonants, t, d, and n, may have dentalized allophones of [t̪ʼ, d̪, n̪]. Consonants k and h can result in allophones of [ɣ, ɣʱ] and [ɦ].
Ndebele /t͡ʃ/ generally correspond to Zulu /ʃ/.
There are five vowel phonemes, written with the letters a, e, i, o, u.
In Northern Ndebele, there are three click consonants c, q and x.
c [ǀ] is made by placing the tip of the tongue against the front upper teeth and gums, the centre of the tongue is depressed and the tip of the tongue is drawn backwards. The resulting sound is similar to the sound used in English to express annoyance. Some examples are cina (end), cela (ask). 
The q [!] sound is made by raising the back of the tongue to touch the soft palate and touching the gums with the sides and tip of the tongue. The centre of the tongue is depressed and the tip drawn quickly away from the gum. The resulting sound is like the "pop" heard when quickly removing the cork from a bottle. Some examples are qalisa (start), qeda (finish). 
The x [ǁ] sound is made by placing the tongue so that the back of the tongue touches the soft palate and the sides and tip of the tongue touch the gums. One side of the tongue is quickly withdrawn from the gums. Some examples are xoxa (discuss), ixoxo (frog). 
|Plosive||voiceless||plain||c [kǀ]||q [k!]||x [kǁ]|
|aspirated||ch [kǀʰ]||qh [k!ʰ]||xh [kǁʰ]|
|voiced||depressed||gc [ɡǀʱ]||gq [ɡ!ʱ]||gx [ɡǁʱ]|
|nasalized||nc [ŋǀ]||nq [ŋ!]||nx [ŋǁ]|
|nasalized (depr.)||ngc [ŋǀʱ]||ngq [ŋ!ʱ]||ngx [ŋǁʱ]|
Ndebele grammar is similar to that of Zulu, with some distinct differences. Northern Ndebele is a Nguni language and is to some extent also mutually intelligible with Swati and Xhosa, the predominant language in the Eastern Cape.
The Northern Ndebele noun consists of two essential parts, the prefix and the stem. Using the prefixes, nouns can be grouped into noun classes, which are numbered consecutively, to ease comparison with other Bantu languages.
The following table gives an overview of Northern Ndebele noun classes, arranged according to singular-plural pairs.
|14||ubu-, ub-, utsh-|
1 umu- replaces um- before monosyllabic stems, e. g. umuntu (person).
Verbs use the following affixes for the subject and the object:
Name: North Ndebele
Name: North Ndebele
|Northern Ndebele language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|