Many words in Zulu allow or require a prefix that agrees with a noun or pronoun in noun class, or in the case of the first and second person, in person and number. These prefixes are called concords.
Table of concords
The following table displays the concords used in Zulu, along with other words such as pronouns that differ by noun class.
- Archaic, not commonly used anymore.
- When attached to a single-syllable stem.
- When a possessive concord is attached.
- For certain nouns indicating (ethnic) groups of people.
- With stems beginning with a-.
- Classes 16 and 17 are remnants of classes found more widely in other Bantu languages. There are only a few class 17 nouns, and no class 16 nouns at all, but their corresponding pronoun forms remain in use.
Formation and usage
The subject concord, object concord and basic noun prefix are the most basic concords. Most others are derived from them in some way, deleting or modifying vowels as necessary.
full noun prefix = augment + basic noun prefix
A noun prefix is attached to every noun stem, and indicates its class. It does not have any inherent meaning, but serves to create nouns from stems. Some stems may allow several different noun prefixes to be added to them, for a variety of meanings.
The form in which nouns are given in dictionaries is the form with the full noun prefix. It is formed by prefixing a vowel, called the augment or initial vowel, to the basic noun prefix. The augment is a copy of the vowel in the basic noun prefix. In class 1, 3 and 9, the original vowel has disappeared, but the augment gives away what it ought to be.
possessive concord = subject concord + a
The possessive concord turns a noun or pronoun into a possessive. The possessive concord has the meaning "of".
When prefixed to class 1a or 2a nouns, the possessive concord is formed by adding -ka- to the subject concord instead of just -a-. If the subject concord is only a vowel, that vowel is dropped, and the possessive concord will be only ka-.
Adjective and relative copulative concord
adjective copulative concord = basic noun prefix
adjective copulative concord 1st/2nd person = subject concord + class 1/2 basic noun prefix
relative copulative concord = subject concord
Adjective and relative copulative concords are attached to an adjective or relative stem, respectively. They turn the adjective or relative into a copulative agreeing with a noun or pronoun, and mean "is" or "are". For example:
- Umuntu mude. — The person is tall.
- Utshani buluhlaza. — Grass is green.
Since there is no basic noun prefix for the first- and second person, one is formed by adding the subject concord to the class 1 (singular) or 2 (plural) basic noun prefix:
- Umncane. — You are small.
- Sibakhulu. — We are big.
Adjective and relative concord
adjective concord = a + augment + adjective copulative
relative concord = a + augment + relative copulative
Adjective and relative concords are attached to an adjective or relative stem, respectively. They are used to qualify a noun or pronoun, or to turn an adjective or relative into a noun-like phrase.
- Umuntu omude. — Tall person. Person who is tall.
- Utshani obuluhlaza. — Green grass. Grass that is green.
- Ngifuna elincane. — I want the small one. I want the one that is small. (class 5)
Relative possessive concord
relative possessive concord = a + augment + possessive concord
This form turns a possessive form into a noun phrase, much like the adjective and relative concords do for relative and adjective stems. It's also used as the base form for the copulative form of a possessive.
- Ngiyibona indlu yakho. Uyibona eyami? — I see your house. Do you see mine?
- Leli kati ngelikamama. — This cat is my mother's. This cat belongs to my mother.