Monday, 17 March 2014

Some Lozi Relatives

There was a question this week in the search box about Lozi adjectives. So I thought it might be interesting to take a quick look at that subject. Many of us will flashback to seemingly interminable school periods with grammar lessons of parsing sentences: subject, verb, object, clauses, gerunds, substantives, tenses and the like.  For many this subject was as dry as the chalk-dust filled atmosphere of the classroom and the droning pedantic pedagogue at the board!

Before history repeats itself and your eyes glaze over again, a quick and basic definition: an adjective qualifies a noun and in Silozi it is brought into agreement by using adjectival concord.

Simple adjectival concord has a very limited use in Silozi as in Southern Sotho. Here the adjectival prefix is the same as the noun prefix it is qualifying.

Munna muhulu  old man

Banana bande    pleasant children

Much more commonly used is the combination of the demonstrative (or relative pronoun) with simple adjectival concord and then the stem.

Munna yo-mu-hulu                            Banana ba-ba-nde

Below is a table showing the adjectival form with the various classes of nouns.


Singular                                                                       Plural

1. yo – mu – tuna                                                       2. ba – ba – tuna

3. o – mu – tuna                                                         4. ye – mi – tuna

5. le-li-tuna                                                                 6. a-ma-tuna

7. se-si-tuna                                                                8. ze-tuna

9. ye-tuna                                                                   10. ze-tuna

11. lo-tuna                                                                  12. lo-lu-tuna

13. to-tu-tuna                                                             14. bo-bu-tuna

15. ko-ku-tuna                                                           16. fo-ku-tuna

17. ko-ku-tuna                                                           18. mo-ku-tuna

19. se-si-tuna                                                              20. bye-bi-tuna

In Silozi adjective stems are very few in number around thirty. Over half of them refer to  colours and markings of cattle and they unusually have a feminine form when applied to cows. Others are to do with mainly physical description and numbers.

fubelu - red,  talaa –green, yellow,  ndilu – blue

nde – good, beautiful,  tuna - big,  hulu – big, old  nyinyani – small, young

nuna – fat,  siswani -  thin,  kima – thick, stout,  telele  tall, long

ñwi – one,  beli – two,  lalu – three,  ne – four

With cattle colour adjectives the Sotho diminutive suffix (-ana) is used for the feminine form. It is very unusual for this family of languages to convey gender and to have a special feminine form.

Poho yekwaba                                                 a black, white-patched bull

Sitole sesikwabana                                          a black, white-patched cow

We can also just use the Class 9 form where komu: beast, is understood

Yensu (a black male one)                                Yeswana (a black female one)

Here is a list of the cattle colour adjective stems or roots. NB Ye- needs to be prefixed before use!

Male Form            Female Form                    Meaning
sweu                        swanyana                           white

nsu                          swana                                 black

kwaba                     kwabana                             black with white patches

puzwa                      puluzwana                           grey

seta                          setana                                  grey-blue

nala                         nalana                                  red with white patches

konoñu                    kunwana                               red

tukwa                      tukwana                               dark grey

sumu                       sunyana                               white-headed

sooto                       sootwana                             dark brown

tamaha                    tamahana                             roan

paswa                      paswana                               brown with white spots

tululi                       tuluzana                                black and white spots

This list is an indication of the close relation between the people and their cattle; clearly an affectionate one but certainly not sentimental. Cattle were highly valued, not only for milk, meat and leather but they played a vital role in social and economic transactions too. They were given, by the groom’s family as a dowry for taking a woman in marriage, for receiving traditional treatment for illness or disease, to settle debts, or as compensation in court cases.          


  1. Hi Mr and Mrs Waddell, just came across your good works. You are at it again. This is great. One more thing - why not give us something on general meanings and backgroud of barotseland places like lealui, limulunga, nanikelako,mwandi,sisheke, kaoma, mbanikelako, mungu, mabili, libonda, namwenyi, matende, lukulu and many more. I would love to here. S.MUKWASIYO

  2. Habari gani? Good to hear from you. I'll try and gather a list of the more common Barotse place names. As with the personal names I only give the meaning if it is backed up by a written source or a reliable oral source. It will be another fairly slow process.
    Wishing you well. Every blessing
    Keith & Ida