CHAPTER 3 THE ZULU LANGUAGE AND LITERARY SYSTEM
Discussion in this chapter will evolve from the precepts of the polysystem theory which maintains that literature, including translated literature, is part of the social, cultural, literary and historical framework and should thus not be studied in isolation, but as part of the system of a culture. Against this backdrop, the focus of this chapter will be on the history of the Zulu people before their language was set to writing, including the period before their encounter with the Europeans. Traditional oral renditions used by the people during this period to pass on information will also be explored, as well as the history of the earliest missionaries who worked amongst the Zulu people, coupled with the history of Bible translation into Zulu.
The translation of the Bible into Zulu will be a gateway to the discussion of the Zulu literary system from its earliest stages to the recent present. This chapter will also touch on the language planning policies which were promulgated during the various stages of Bible translation.
According to various historians such as Wilson & Thompson (1969) and Duminy & Guest (1989), no account of Zulu history was ever documented before the arrival of the white people on the shores of Southern Africa in the 1820s. Knowledge of the region under the jurisdiction of the Zulu monarchs in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, an area which Duminy & Guest (1989:49) distinguish as the Phongolo-Mzimkhulu region, derives primarily from a corpus of oral traditions recorded a century or more after the occurrence of the events which they claim to describe. It was only from 1824, with the beginning of the first European settlement of Natal that some written records appeared to tell the Zulu story. Those who showed interest in the Zulu people, their language and their oral tradition, had to rely on archaeological excavations and linguistic evidence to help them fill in the details, but in general the knowledge of pre-nineteenth century Zulu is highly sketchy (Hexham 1987:4).
Canonici (1996:1) describes the Zulu people as descendants of an ancient population which lived north-west of the equatorial rain forest and the great lakes of Africa about 6 000 years ago and migrated southwards in search of better pasture for their cattle. It could be assumed that the Zulu language at this point in time did not exist; in its place a proto-language was spoken by all who migrated southwards.
Duminy and Guest (1989:54) maintain that in the pre-colonial societies of south-eastern Africa, the word ‘Nguni’, used variably as umNguni, abanguni, abeNguni, and their cognates, had a different meaning. They are of the opinion that no ‘Nguni’ ancestral clan ever existed and that the word was never used as a generic term by the peoples to whom contemporary scholars came to apply it. They claim that Amantungwa, Amalala and Amambo were not groupings of clans that could demonstrate a common descent, but clans whose traditions of common descent developed in a process of political struggle during the course of the nineteenth century. They assert that, strictly speaking, the word ‘Nguni’ should be used only as a linguistic term, as in ‘Nguni languages’ and ‘Nguni-speaking people’. They believe that continued use of this term as an ethnic description helps obscure the conclusion to which recent archaeological research, as well as research recorded on oral traditions of Zululand-Natal, points; namely, that the historically known African societies of the region did not migrate in fixed ethnic units, but emerged locally from long-established ancestral communities of diverse and heterogeneous cultures and languages.
In the next section I will examine the way of life of the Zulu people during the pre-missionary period, before they came into contact with European settlers, with a view to tracing the historical background to the development and expansion of the Zulu language.
Historical background to the development and expansion of the Zulu language
As recounted by Duminy and Guest (1989:50), the way of life of the Nguni-speaking people who settled on the south-eastern coastal regions of Africa can be divided into three periods; namely, that which dated from about AD 1500 to 1700, which is marked as the period when the Nguni-speaking people migrated into the region from the north and northwest, and dispersed into clans. The next was a period when the people lived in peace and stability in numerous small-scale clans under benign patriarchal rule. The third period began with the taking over of power of the Zulu clan by Shaka in about 1816.
Before the rise of Shaka and the formation of the Zulu kingdom, Zulu was a dialect spoken by a small Zulu clan, and the history of this clan is linked with that of the other Nguni groups. The Nguni languages are mutually understandable, though there are dialectal differences among them. In addition to Zulu, Xhosa, Swati and Ndebele are other languages under the Nguni group of languages. Each of these languages further comprises a number of dialects, distinguished by peculiarities in their sound systems, or by their word-formation patterns, or by the use of different vocabulary to express the same notions. East African Ngoni, now extinct, and Zimbabwe Ndebele are also considered to be Nguni languages (Canonici 1996:2).
The founding ancestor of the Zulu clan was Malandela, whose kingdom was split between his two sons, Qwabe, who founded the Qwabe clan, and Zulu. Zulu was succeeded by Phunga and Mageba. Malandela, Zulu, Phunga and Mageba are thus regarded as the great ancestors of the Zulu nation. Mageba was succeeded by Ndaba, who was then succeeded by Jama, the father of Senzangakhona. Senzangakhona was in turn succeeded by his three sons, Shaka (1787-1828, who ruled from 1816-1828); Dingane (1828-1840) and Mpande (1840-1872). Cetshwayo, son of Mpande, who could be considered as one of the last monarchs over the Zulu people, was king from 1872-1884. It was during Cetshwayo’s rule that the Zulu kingdom collapsed under the pressure of the English government of the Cape. Those who reigned after Cetshwayo were no longer independent rulers after the kingdom was annexed by British colonial powers. These were Dinizulu (1884-1913); Solomon (1913-1933); Mshiyeni (regent from 1933-1949); Cyprian kaBhekuzulu (1949-1968); Mcwayizeni Israel (regent from 1971-1971); and Goodwill Zwelithini who ascended the throne in 1971 (Canonici 1996:1).
Going back to the period between 1800 and 1870, it is important to mention that the situation in both the coastal region and the plateau of south-eastern Africa began to change radically. Around 1805 the small chiefdoms were joined together in an alliance by Dingiswayo, the leader of the Mthethwa people. Following the death of Dingiswayo in about 1818, one of the smaller groups in the alliance, the Zulu, defeated other groups under the able leadership of Shaka. In this manner the Zulu nation was formed (Hexham 1987:4-5). Duminy and Guest (1989:50 & 68) regard Shaka’s assumption of power over the Zulu clan as a period that began major political changes in the region, whereby the earliest system of numberless clans and independent chieftains was gradually demolished.
Duminy and Guest (1989:57) maintain that although there is little that can be drawn either from the traditions or from the shreds of documentary evidence which existed on the nature of the socio-political organisation before the emergence of the Zulu kingdom in the late 1810s and early 1820s, there is enough to suggest that in the mid-eighteenth century, the inhabitants of the Phongolo-Mzimkhulu region lived in numerous, small-scale political units which varied in size, population and political structure. They believe that chiefdoms were made up of a random number of local communities which were themselves composed of shifting clusters of homesteads (Duminy and Guest 1989:57).
Ties that were not political tended to cut across political boundaries, and communities and chiefdoms alike were generally fluid and unstable entities, enlarging, splitting, forming and reforming, sometimes peacefully, sometimes violently, as members quarrelled over access to material resources and to sources of power. This fluidity and instability was an indication of the degree to which power in these political societies was distributed. This was because there were no institutions through which the chief could exercise more than a temporary effective command over the armed men of the chiefdom as a whole. Men mobilised on a local basis under their own community leaders, with the result that the chief was not usually able to command enough manpower to enable him easily to confront and subdue dissident factions, or to prevent them from abandoning their allegiance to him and sever connections with the chiefdom (Duminy and Guest 1989:57).
Shaka’s rise to power came with the rapid expansion of the kingdom. He defeated other chiefdoms which had remained independent of Dingiswayo. Areas previously occupied by many independent chiefdoms, became transformed into a single kingdom, and many tribes became moulded into a single nation. The traditions of the Zulu royal lineage became the traditions of the nation; the Zulu dialect became the language of the nation, and every inhabitant, whatever his or her origin, became a Zulu, owing allegiance to Shaka. Fear, too, was an important nation-building factor (Wilson & Thompson 1969:344).
The upheavals which accompanied the rise of the Zulu kingdom, known as the Difeqane or Mfecane (meaning ‘the crushing’), were a major factor in the expansion of the Zulu language. The inhabitants of Natal south of the Thukela3 River took flight southwards, some amalgamating with Madikane, who founded the Bhaca chiefdom. Beyond them large numbers of disorganized refugees sought shelter among the Xhosa chiefdoms. They were known as Mfengu, ‘Fingos’ to the European settlers (Wilson & Thompson 1969: 345-346).
To the north of Shaka’s kingdom, the most successful organizer of resistance was Sobhuza, a Nguni chief of the Dlamini clan. Sobhuza, who ruled from about 1815 to about 1836, retreated to defensible positions in the mountains north of the Phongolo River, absorbed Sotho as well as Nguni chiefdoms, created an army on Zulu lines and laid the foundations of what later became known as the Swazi kingdom, named after Sobhuza’s son, Mswazi (Wilson & Thompson 1969:346). Although Swati is regarded as a fully fledged language today, for a very long time it was considered a Zulu dialect. During the period when Swaziland was still a British protectorate, the Zulu language was used in that region as a written vernacular. The New Testament LiThestamente Lelisha in Swati was first published by the Bible Society of South Africa in 1981, while the complete Bible LiBhayibheli was published in 1997 (Hermanson: personal interview).
After Shaka defeated the Ndwandwe tribe in 1819, two of Zwide’s warriors escaped Shaka’s clutches in 1821 by moving northwards. During the next decade, one of them, Soshangane, carved out his Gaza kingdom in the lowlands between Delagoa Bay and the lower Zambesi, subduing the Tsonga inhabitants and destroying the Portuguese settlements at Delagoa Bay, Inhambane and Sena (Wilson & Thompson 1969:346). Through Soshangane’s influence and his Zulu dissidents, the Shangane language, which is presently known as Tsonga, in South Africa, came into existence.
Zwangendaba, another Zulu dissident, settled for a time in Soshangane’s area, but in 1831 was driven westwards. In 1835 he crossed the Zambezi River to establish an Ngoni kingdom along the western side of Lake Malawi4 and as far north as Lake Tanganyika. Initially the migrant bands consisted of perhaps one hundred warriors each, but they quickly became huge by receiving fresh refugees from the Zulu country and absorbing large numbers of people from the chiefdoms they conquered in their travels. Zwangendaba’s followers also threw off splinter groups as they advanced across the Zambesi (Wilson & Thompson 1969:347). Zwangendaba’s followers spoke the Ngoni language, which is now extinct, but was considered a Zulu dialect.
Mzilikazi was taken into Shaka’s service after his father, Mashobane, was killed by Zwide. In about 1822, Shaka sent Mzilikazi to raid cattle from a Sotho chieftain, but on his return Mzilikazi defied Shaka by retaining some of the cattle he had captured. To escape reprisal, Mzilikazi fled northwards with two or three hundred young men, brushing off Zulu pursuers, and acquiring more followers as he travelled. In 1823, he settled on the upper Oliphants River in the then eastern Transvaal highveld. During the next few years he conquered the Pedi and other Sotho chiefdoms in that area, and his following continued to grow as he absorbed Sotho survivors as well as more Nguni refugees from Shaka. When Mzilikazi fled north in 1837, he was accompanied by a considerable number of people of Sotho as well as Nguni origin (Wilson & Thompson 1969:405). He then moved westward to form a new kingdom in the then Northern Transvaal. This settlement was short-lived since, after clashing with Boer farmers, Mzilikazi was driven further north to finally establish the Matabele nation in Zimbabwe (Thuynsma 1980:6). The Ndebele language, spoken by Mzilikazi’s followers in the then Transvaal and those in Zimbabwe, was considered a dialect of Zulu for a very long time until it was declared a fully fledged language. Despite the geographical rift, Zimbabwe Ndebele is still essentially a form of Zulu. However, a Shona influence is apparent in the vocabulary.
The Ndebele-speaking people of South Africa fall into two sub-categories, namely the Southern Ndebele and the Northern Ndebele. Southern Ndebele comprise those of the Manala and Ndzundza tribes. Southern Ndebele is now a fully-fledged written language, more closely related to Zulu than to any other Nguni language, although it has striking similarities with Mpondo, a dialect of Xhosa. Northern Ndebele is a sister dialect to Southern Ndebele. They share a common history as well as a common vocabulary. The only difference is that Northern Ndebele is a dialect which falls under the Tekela language group, whereas Southern Ndebele falls under the Zunda group. The New Testament, with a selection of Psalms, ITastemende Eliyjha namaRhalani akhethiweko, was published by the Bible Society of South Africa in 1986. A team, based at the University of Pretoria, is currently translating the Old Testament. This is the only South African official language without a complete Bible (Hermanson: personal interview).
If the upheavals which came with the rise of the Zulu kingdom resulted in social and political changes in the south-eastern region of Africa, it is safe to assume that such changes did not leave the languages spoken by the people unaffected. Through these changes the languages of the chiefdoms which were subjugated by Shaka’s warriors were transformed. The Zulu language became the language of all the conquered tribes.
During pre-colonial times policies pertaining to language were carried out unintentionally. The Difaqane upheavals under King Shaka comprised the most significant inadvertent act of language planning. These upheavals saw the Zulu language spreading within and outside the borders of South Africa, and being carried to other parts of the continent to countries such as Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi by Shaka’s warriors who fled from his reign (Duminy & Guest 1989). This naturally resulted in a rise in the number of people speaking the Zulu language. Shaka unwittingly expanded the use of the Zulu language, which today is the most widely spoken language in South Africa (Duminy & Guest 1989).
The next section of my discussion will look into how the Zulu people used their language to pass on their value systems, norms and beliefs to their progeny.
Zulu oral traditions
The age of oral art amongst Southern African peoples is difficult to determine, mainly because of a lack of appropriate records, but it is clear that oral art has been with the human race since the beginning of mankind, from the very first occasions when our forefathers related their experiences real or imagined – to each other (Ntuli & Swanepoel 1993:8). To ensure their continued existence and survival, preliterate people trained their progeny in their society’s customs, notions, beliefs, traditions and prejudices, and transmitted this knowledge orally from one generation to the next as forms of communication in small groups (Canonici 1996:53). This task was fulfilled in celebratory events where knowledge was imparted, and ethical systems were inculcated through examples.
Folklore is a tradition that stands quite apart from written literature. De Villiers (1979:1) contends that folklore is part of all human cultures. The knowledge of a people’s folklore makes it easier to understand their culture, and a people’s folklore is regarded as an account of their culture. The literary abilities of preliterate men and women have been established beyond question by the thousands of stories, lyrics, riddles and proverbs they have left us, not only in southern Africa, but in all cultures the world over (Ntuli and Swanepoel 1993:8). According to Bascom (1965:284), oral art, or folklore as he terms it, is a mirror of culture and incorporates descriptions of the details of ceremonies, institutions and technology, as well as the expression of beliefs and attitudes. Although there are differences as to the forms that comprise these literary abilities of preliterate men and women, the most significant are the narrative prose or myths, legends, fables and tales; didactic prose or proverbs and riddles; praise poems which include lyric and dramatic poetry and songs (De Villiers 1979).
The history of oral literature amongst the Zulu people started long before they knew anything about writing and long before the advent of missionaries on the shores of South Africa. Like all preliterate people who lacked a form of writing, the style of the narratives of the Zulu people was characterised mainly by oral presentations accompanied by a variety of acts which gave meaning to words, or which substituted the words. Canonici (1996:2) and Ntuli & Makhambeni (1998:7) contend that even during their entire period of south-bound migration, the Bantu-speaking people relied on oral art to pass on information regarding their history and customs to their progeny. They had their own way of creating, committing and transmitting works of verbal art.
Although the different forms of folklore were rendered and performed for purposes of entertainment, they educated and preserved the language. Preliterate people did not divide folklore into various genres as we have them today. These divisions were introduced when folklore became a subject of scientific study. Oral prose differs from oral poetry in that it lacks the conciseness of poetry. In oral prose the artist indulges in elaborating the tale and explanations because they narrate at leisure. The artist reveals a fuller, more extensive side of his/her creative ability. According to Lestrade (1937:306), the difference between prose and poetry is one ‘of spirit rather than form’. In storytelling there is reshaping, recasting and embellishing, according to creative genius (Thuynsma 1980:145). Folk oral narratives which are presented in prose make use of normal, everyday speech, which is perfected and controlled in the interests of artistic creation and literary style. Prose is spoken, but the rhythmic characteristics of the language are often heightened to involve the audience (Canonici 1996:8).
Ngcobo (2002:43) brings another dimension to oral traditional stories. He sees such stories as drawing upon the collective wisdom of oral people, thus serving important social and ethical purposes. For example, a parent would use a story to convey proper morals in accordance with the community. This was easy because storytelling was essentially an event in which the entire community participated. By the same token, people would use praise poems as an attempt to warn the king not to commit an action that would compromise himself and his high office.
Zulu storytelling follows a specific pattern. It has an opening formula which the storyteller usually uses which begins thus: Kwesukasukela! (Once upon a time, it happened) to which the audience’s response is Cosi (small quantity). During the storytelling the audience will be active participants, joining in song and using various facial expressions and gestures that correspond with what is happening in the story. At the end of the story the storyteller will wind up her tale using a concluding formula, which will vary from one storyteller to the other, the most popular being Cosi cosi iyaphela (This is the end of our story), and the audience will respond by saying Siyabonga! Yaze yamnandi indaba yakho (We thank you! What a nice tale it was!) (Canonici 1996:55).
In the next section I will examine the various sub-genres of the prose narrative, which comprise myth, legend and tales. I will also discuss the sub-genres of traditional poetry which include praise poems, clan names or praise names, lullabies, songs and sayings, as well as their significance in present-day life.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background and research problem
1.2 Aims and rationale
1.3 Method of research
1.4 Theoretical framework
1.5 Analytical framework
1.6 Organisation of the study
CHAPTER 2: THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES ON TRANSLATION
2.2 The development of translation as a field of scientific study
2.3 Prescriptive translation theories
2.4 Movement away from equivalent-based approaches to translation
CHAPTER 3: THE ZULU LANGUAGE AND LITERARY SYSTEM
3.2 Historical background to the development and expansion of the Zulu Language
3.3 Zulu oral traditions
3.4 First contacts between the Zulu people and Europeans
3.5 The missionary period amongst the Zulu people
3.6 The history of Bible translation in Zulu
3.7 The Zulu literary system
3.8 Language planning policies in South Africa
CHAPTER 4: ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK AND RESEARCH PROCEDURES
4.2 The significance of polysystem theory and descriptive translation for this study
4.3 Corpus-based research for this study
4.4 Micro-level analysis
4.5 Macro-level analysis
CHAPTER 5: A CORPUS-BASED ANALYSIS OF TWELVE ZULU TRANSLATIONS OF THE BOOK OF MATTHEW
5.2 Disjunctive versus conjunctive writing
5.3 Capitalisation problems in the Zulu Bible
5.4 Phonological shifts
5.5 Morphological shifts
5.6 Lexical shifts
5.7 The transliteration of Greek and Hebrew names
CHAPTER 6: FINDINGS AND INTERPRETATION
6.2 The translations of the American Board Mission: The 1848 translation of the Book of Matthew: the 1865 translation of the New Testament and the 1924 translation of the Bible
6.3 Colenso’s translations: The 1855 adaptation and the 1897 translation of the New Testament
6.4 Döhne’s translation of the Gospels
6.5 The 1924 translation of the New Testament by the Hermannsburg Mission
6.6 The 1959 translation of the Bible by the British and Foreign Bible Society
6.7 The 1966 Roman Catholic Mission translation of the New Testament
6.8 The 1986 translation of the Bible Society of South Africa based on the principle of dynamic
6.9 The 1994 New World Translation of the New Testament
6.10 The 1997 revised edition of the Bible by the Bible Society of South Africa
CHAPTER 7: CONCLUSION
7.2 Synopsis of the chapters
7.3 Limitations of current study
7.4 Contribution of current study
7.5 Implications for further research
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