Ila language

Ila (Chiila) is a language of Zambia. Maho (2009) lists Lundwe (Shukulumbwe) and Sala as distinct languages most closely related to Ila. Ila is one of the languages of the Earth included on the Voyager Golden Record.[5]

Native toZambia
Native speakers
106,000 (2010 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
ilb – Ila
shq – Sala
Glottologilaa1246  Ila[2]
sala1266  Sala[3]



  • ch in fact varies from "k" to a "weak" version of English "ch", to a "strong" "ch" to "ty".
  • j as the voiced sound corresponding to this therefore varies "g"/English "j"/ "dy" / and "y".
  • v is reportedly like English "v", but vh "lips more rounded with a more distinct emission of breath".
  • zh is the j in French bonjour.
  • ng is the sound as in (southern British) English "finger", while ng' is as in "singer" - a similar distinction is observed in Swahili.[7]

Labio-glottal and palato-glottal fricatives

Doke (1928) described several unusual doubly articulated consonants in Ila proper, Kafue Twa and Lundwe.[8]

In Ila proper, /hˠ*, h̰ˠ*, ɦˠ*/ are "modified glottal fricatives in which the air passes through the throat with considerable friction, and is modified by being thrown against the toothless[9] ridge and inside of the upper lip, causing concomitant frication there. ... The tongue is meanwhile kept in velar vowel position as for [u] and these fricatives therefore inherently possess a u-glide, which is noticeable when they are used with any other vowel than u." The 'concomitant lip frication' is evidently something like that of [f] and [v]. Doke transcribed these sounds simply ⟨h, h̰, ɦ⟩.

Lundwe and Kafwe Twa have a palato-glottal fricative /ɦ͡ʒ/. "This sound is produced with a tongue position similar to Ila [ʒ] but with considerable voiced frication in the throat at the same time."

Tonality and stress

Tone is demonstrated by contrasting aze with high pitch on the first syllable ( = "with him") with aze with high pitch on the second syllable (= "he also").[6]

Some words and phrases

  • ing'anda - house
  • imboni - pupil of the eye
  • ipezho - brush
  • indimi - tongues
  • lemeka - honour (verb)
  • bamba - arrange
  • Bambambila - they arrange for me
  • Balanumba - they praise me
  • bobu buzani - this meat
  • Bobu mbuzani - this is meat
  • chita - to do, same is used to mean 'I have no idea'
  • chisha - to cause to do
  • katala - to be tired
  • katazha - to make tired
  • impongo - a goat [6]

Some comparisons

  • Ila: ishishi - dimness; Sotho: lefifi - darkness; Xhosa: "ubufifi" - dimness; Nyanja: chimfifi - secret;

Bemba: IMFIFI - darkness; Kisanga: mfinshi - darkness; and Bulu (Ewondo): "dibi" - darkness.

Ideophones or imitation words

Words in English such as "Splash!", "Gurgle", "Ker-putt" express ideas without the use of sentences. Smith and Dale [6] point out that this kind of expression is very common in the Ila language:

You may say Ndamuchina anshi ("I throw him down"), but it is much easier and more trenchant to say simply Ti!, and it means the same.[10]

Some examples:

  • Muntu wawa - A person falls
  • Wawa mba - falls headlong
  • Mba! - He falls headlong
  • Mbo! mbo! mbo! mbò! - (with lowered intonation on the last syllable) He falls gradually
  • Mbwa! - flopping down, as in a chair
  • Wa! wa! wa! wa!- The rain is pattering
  • Pididi! pididi! pididi! - of a tortoise, falling over and over from a great height
  • Ndamuchina anshi - I throw him down
  • Ti! - ditto
  • Te! - torn, ripped
  • Amana te! - The matter's finished
  • To-o! - So peaceful!
  • Wi! - All is calm
  • Ne-e! - All is calm
  • Tuh! - a gun going off
  • Pi! - Phew, it's hot!
  • Lu! - Yuck, it's bitter!
  • Bu-u! - Erh, it's sour!
  • Lwe! - Yum, sweet!
  • Mbi! - It's dark
  • Mbi! mbi! mbi! mbi! - It's utterly dark
  • Sekwè sekwè! - the flying of a goose
  • nachisekwe - a goose

Class prefixes

As in many other languages, Ila uses a system of noun classes. Either the system as presented by Smith and Dale [6] is simpler than that for Nyanja,[11] ChiChewa,[12] Tonga,[13] or Bemba,[14] or the authors have skated over the complexities by the use of the category "significant letter":

  • Class 1. singular: prefix: mu-; s/l. (= "significant letter" verb, adjective, etc. prefix appropriate to the class:) u-, w-
  • Class 1. plural. prefix: ba-; s/l. b-
  • Class 2. sing. prefix: mu-; s/l. u-, w-
  • Class 2. pl. prefix: mi-; s/l. i-, y-
  • Class 3. sing. prefix: i-, di-; s/l. l-, d-
  • Class 3. pl. prefix: ma-; s/l. a-
  • Class 4. sing. prefix: bu- abstract nouns; s/l. b-
  • Class 4. pl. prefix: ma-; s/l. a-
  • Class 5. sing. prefix: ku- often nouns of place; s/l. k-
  • Class 5. pl. prefix: ma-; s/l. a-
  • Class 6. sing. prefix: ka- a diminutive sense; s/l. k-
  • Class 6. pl. prefix: tu- diminutive plural; s/l. t-
  • Class 7. sing. prefix: chi- "thing" class; s/l. ch-
  • Class 7. pl. prefix: shi-; s/l. sh-
  • Class 8. sing. prefix: in-; s/l. i-, y-
  • Class 8. pl. prefix: in-; s/l. y-, sh-
  • Class 9. sing. prefix: lu-; s/l. l-
  • Class 9. pl. prefix: in-; s/l. y-, sh-
  • Class 10. sing. prefix: lu-; s/l. l-
  • Class 10. pl. prefix: ma-; s/l. a-

The locatives form a special category:

  • mu- - at rest in, motion into, motion out from;
  • ku- - position at, to, from
  • a- - rest upon, to or from off (Compare pa- prefix in Sanga, etc.[15][16])


  • Mung'anda mulashia - The inside of the house is dark.
  • Kung'anda kulashia - Around the house it is dark.
  • Ang'anda alashia - Darkness is upon the house.

The Ila verb system

The root is the part of the verb giving the primary meaning. To this can be added prefixes and suffixes: many elements can be united in this way, sometimes producing long and complex polysyllabic verb words. For example, from the root anga, "to tie", we can derive such a form as Tamuchinakubaangulwilanzhi? meaning, "Why have you still not untied them?"

Prefixes can show:

  • tense
  • subject
  • object
  • voice (exceptional)

Suffixes can show:

  • voice
  • tense (exceptional)
  • mood

Here are some of the forms of the verb kubona, "to see". (Note that there are also negative forms, e.g. ta-tu-boni, "we do not see", that there is also a subjunctive mood, a conditional mood, a jussive mood and the imperative. Many subjunctive forms end in -e.

The root of the verb is in two forms:

  • (i) simple stem: bona : code - SS
  • (ii) modified stem: bwene : code ₴
  • -SS tubona we (who) see
  • -₵ tubwene we (who) have seen
  • -A-SS twabona we saw, see, have seen
  • -A-CHI-SS twachibona we continue seeing
  • -A-YA-BU-SS twayabubona we are engaged in seeing
  • -DI-MU-KU-SS tudimukubona we are seeing
  • -CHI-SS tuchibona we continue to see
  • -LA-SS tulabona we are constantly (usually, certainly) seeing
  • -LA-YA-BU-SS tulayabubona we are being engaged in seeing
  • -LA-YA-KU-SS tulayakubona we are habitually in the act of seeing
  • -DI-₵ tudibwene we have seen
  • -CHI-₵ tuchibwene we have been seeing
  • -A-KA-SS twakabona we saw
  • -A-KA-CHI-SS twakachibona we continued seeing
  • -A-KA-YA-BU-SS twakayabubona we were engaged in seeing
  • KA-SS katubona (Notice the position of tu here) we saw
  • KA-₵ katubwene we did see
  • -A-KU-SS twakubona we were seeing
  • -A-KU-CHI-SS twakuchibona we were continuing to see
  • -A-KU-YA-BU-SS twakuyabubona we were engaged in seeing
  • -A-KU-₵ twakubwene we had seen
  • -KA-LA-SS tukalabona we shall soon see
  • -KA-LA-CHI-SS tukalachibona we shall continue seeing
  • -KA-LA-YA-BU-SS tukalayabubona we shall be engaged in seeing

The above English renderings are approximate.

Certain suffixes add new dimensions of meaning to the root. Although these follow some logic, we again have to feel a way towards an adequate translation into English or any other language:

  • simple verb: bona - to see
  • relative or dative form: -ila, -ela, -ina, -ena: bonena - to see to, for somebody, and so on
  • extended relative: idila, -elela, -inina, enena: bonenena - to see to, for somebody, etc. ididila - to go right away
  • causative: -ya + many sound changes: chisha - to cause to do, from chita - to do
  • capable, "-able": -ika, -eka: chitika - to be do-able
  • passive: -wa: chitwa - to be done
  • middle (a kind of reflexive that acts upon oneself - compare Greek): -uka: anduka - to be in a split position, from andulwa- to be split by somebody
  • stative; in fixed constructions only: -ama: lulama - to be straight; kotama - to be bowed
  • extensive: -ula: sandula - turn over; andula - split up
  • extensive, with the sense of "keep on doing": -aula: andaula - chop up firewood
  • equivalent of English prefix "re-": -ulula: ululula - to trade something over and over again, from ula - to trade
  • or the equivalent of the English prefix "un-", also: -ulula: ambulula - to unsay, to retract
  • reflexive - a prefix this time - di- : dianga - to tie oneself, from anga - to tie; dipa - to give to each other, from pa - to give
  • reciprocal: -ana: bonana - to see each other
  • intensive: -isha: angisha - to tie tightly
  • reduplicative: ambukambuka - keep on turning aside, from ambuka - to turn aside

These can be used in composites: e.g. langidizha - to cause to look on behalf of.[6]

Oral literature

A text given by Smith and Dale,[6] Sulwe Mbwakatizha Muzovu ("How Mr. Hare managed to scare Mr. Elephant") presents what might be called a "classical fabliau", with animals talking like people, just as in the Fables of Aesop or the Brer Rabbit stories in the African Diaspora.[17] Is it fanciful to see the model for the mischievous, resourceful Brer Rabbit in the Sulwe of this story? It seems that slaves destined for the southern United States were captured and purchased in this area of Zambia.[18][19] There is at least a statistical possibility that the Brer Rabbit cycle, with its use of ideophones or sound imitations, had an origin in the Ila language.


Smith, Edwin William & Dale, Andrew Murray, The Ila-speaking Peoples of Northern Rhodesia. Macmillan and Company, London, 1920.


  1. ^ Ila at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Sala at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Ila". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Sala". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Edwin Smith & Andrew Murray Dale, The Ila-Speaking Peoples of Northern Rhodesia, 1919, reprinted by University Books Inc., New York, 1968.
  7. ^ e.g. D.V.Perrott, Teach Yourself Swahili, English Universities Press, London, 1969.
  8. ^ Didier Demolin & Cédric Patin, "Phonetics". In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Bantu Languages.
  9. ^ The Ila had the custom of knocking out the six upper central teeth of adults. The pronunciation of these sounds by children with teeth, however, is very close to that of the adults.
  10. ^ Smith & Dale, volume 2, page 293.
  11. ^ Thomas Price, The Elements of Nyanja for English-Speaking Students, Church of Scotland Mission, Blantyre (Malawi), 1959.
  12. ^ ChiChewa Intensive Language Course, Language Centre, Lilongwe, 1969
  13. ^ C.R.Hopwood, A Practical Introduction to ChiTonga, Zambia Educational Publishing House, Lusaka, 1940, 1992.
  14. ^ Grammar notes in Rev. E. Hoch, Hippocrene Concise Dictionary: Bemba: Bemba - English, English - Bemba, Hippocrene Books, Inc., New York, 1998.
  15. ^ Mukanda wa Leza (The Bible in KiSanga/Sanga, southern Congo D.R.), Trintarian Bible Society, London SW19, 1991.
  16. ^ Lyndon Harries, A Grammar of Mwera Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg, 1950.
  17. ^ Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus, or , Mr. Fox, Mr. Rabbit, and Mr. Terrapin, George Routledge, London, circa 1888.
  18. ^ Smith & Dale, volume 1, page 39.
  19. ^ Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave trade 1440-1870, Picador, London, 1997. page 706: "From...Ambriz and Benguela...500,000 slaves were probably shipped during the...era 1800-1830;...and...over 600,000 may have been shipped after 1830..."

External links

Contents of the Voyager Golden Record

The Voyager Golden Record contains 116 images plus a calibration image and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind, and thunder, and animal sounds, including the songs of birds, whales and dolphins. The record, which is carried on both the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts, additionally features musical selections from different cultures and eras, spoken greetings in fifty-nine languages, other human sounds, like footsteps and laughter (Carl Sagan's), and printed messages from President Jimmy Carter and U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim. The items were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University.

After NASA had received criticism over the nudity on the Pioneer plaque (line drawings of a naked man and woman), the agency chose not to allow Sagan and his colleagues to include a photograph of a nude man and woman on the record. Instead, only a silhouette of the couple was included.Here is an excerpt of President Carter's official statement placed on the Voyager spacecraft for its trip outside the Solar System, June 16, 1977:

We cast this message into the cosmos ... Of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, some – perhaps many – may have inhabited planets and space faring civilizations. If one such civilization intercepts Voyager and can understand these recorded contents, here is our message: This is a present from a small distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts, and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope some day, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations. This record represents our hope and our determination and our goodwill in a vast and awesome universe.

Doubly articulated consonant

Doubly articulated consonants are consonants with two simultaneous primary places of articulation of the same manner (both plosive, or both nasal, etc.). They are a subset of co-articulated consonants. They are to be distinguished from co-articulated consonants with secondary articulation; that is, a second articulation not of the same manner. An example of a doubly articulated consonant is the voiceless labial-velar plosive [k͡p], which is a [k] and a [p] pronounced simultaneously. On the other hand, the voiceless labialized velar plosive [kʷ] has only a single stop articulation, velar ([k]), with a simultaneous approximant-like rounding of the lips. In some dialects of Arabic, the voiceless velar fricative [x] has a simultaneous uvular trill, but this is not considered double articulation either.

Edwin W. Smith

The Reverend Edwin William Smith (1876–1957) was a Primitive Methodist missionary/anthropologist and author who was born in South Africa, studied at Elmfield College from 1888, and then worked in Africa. The scholar of African Christian history, Adrian Hastings refers to 1925–1950 as “the age of Edwin Smith”.He was born at Aliwal North, South Africa, on 7 September 1876. His parents were missionaries of the Primitive Methodist Connexion. His father, John Smith (1840–1915), went to Aliwal North in 1874 and spent ten of the next fourteen years there. Returning to London, he became secretary of the Primitive Methodist Missionary Society in the 1890s and president of the Primitive Methodist Conference in 1898.

In 1899 he married Julia, daughter of James Fitch of Peasenhall, Suffolk. He served in Africa as a missionary of the Primitive Methodist Church, 1898-1915.

Ila people

The Ila people are an ethnic group in The Republic of Zambia who make up 0.8 percent of the total population.

The Ila are closely related in language and culture to their more numerous Tonga neighbours in Southern Province. The Ila people mainly reside in Namwala District, which is the principal town for the Ila, Itezhi-Tezhi and Mumbwa districts spread across seventeen chiefdoms.Most Ila grow enough food to feed their families and to cover expenses for physical needs and their children's educational expenses. More educational and career opportunities are available in the larger towns and village centers. Some Ila raise animals such as chickens, goats, or pigs on a small scale, and mostly cows, though that is usually for tradition and prestige. In fact, the belief that cows are a sign of wealth and value undergirds an Ila funeral tradition. The funeral ceremony lasts several days. On the day after burial, cows are slaughtered. It is believed that the more that are killed, the greater the value of the dead person in the eyes of the community. Afterward, everyone goes home with enough meat to compensate for the time spent at the funeral.

Joel Chandler Harris

Joel Chandler Harris (December 9, 1848 – July 3, 1908) was an American journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist best known for his collection of Uncle Remus stories. Harris was born in Eatonton, Georgia, where he served as an apprentice on a plantation during his teenage years. He spent most of his adult life in Atlanta working as an associate editor at the Atlanta Constitution.

Harris led two professional lives: as the editor and journalist known as Joe Harris, he supported a vision of the New South with the editor Henry W. Grady (1880–1889), stressing regional and racial reconciliation after the Reconstruction era. As Joel Chandler Harris, fiction writer and folklorist, he wrote many 'Brer Rabbit' stories from the African-American oral tradition and helped to revolutionize literature in the process.

LGBT rights in Zimbabwe

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Zimbabwe face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Since 1995, the Zimbabwe Government has carried out campaigns against LGBT rights. Sodomy is classified as unlawful sexual conduct and defined in the Criminal Code as either anal sexual intercourse or any "indecent act" between consenting adults. The law also applies to heterosexuals, but not to lesbians.Zimbabwe stands in sharp contrast with neighbouring South Africa, as well as Botswana and Mozambique which have recently enacted LGBT protections. Same-sex marriage is banned by the Zimbabwe Constitution, and LGBT people enjoy no legal protections from discrimination, violence and harassment. Members of the LGBT community are heavily marginalised in both the legal and social spheres. As a result, many choose to remain in the closet, commit suicide, or move to South Africa. However, since Robert Mugabe's forced removal from the presidency in November 2017, LGBT activists have expressed hopes that their human rights will be respected.

According to a 2018 survey, 50% of gay men in Zimbabwe had been physically assaulted and 64% had been disowned by their families. 27% of lesbians also reported disownment.Homosexuality, same-sex relations and cross-dressing used to be accepted and commonplace in Zimbabwe prior to colonisation and post-independence anti-white government policies, which in turn has spread the erroneous belief that homosexuality is un-African or a Western product. Homosexual activity has been documented among the San people, the Khoikhoi people, the Ndebele people and the Shona people.

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