Zulu acquires 450 new words, technical terms

South African engineer Phiwayinkosi Mbuyazi has invented 450 new words, including technology-based terms, for the African language isiZulu in the process of writing a true-to-life novel in order to describe modern society sufficiently.

“Languages evolve, and isiZulu need not be left behind, otherwise it will become irrelevant,” Mbuyazi told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“It now lacks the terminology that would allow one to hold a conversation, let alone write a book.”

Mbuyazi’s book, titled Amayuphendleya, is based on the wonders of technology as four adolescent boys experience an adventure.

The novel kicks off with a first encounter as the characters come across an ‘isilolongamoya’, meaning air conditioner.

The writer, who has three published titles under his name, hopes the words he created will become part of colloquial use for Zulu speakers and also open the market to the group.

Zulu purists are, however, critical towards the addition of words to modernise the language.

“People must not make up words just for the sake of it,” said Professor Nhlanhla Mathonsi, African Language Researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Mathonsi explained that “a deep understanding of the language and its nuances” is necessary for the development of words to avoid confusion.

Mbuyazi is, however, unapologetic about coining the new words.

“Many people speak proudly about preserving isiZulu but the truth is by keeping it unchanged we are contributing to its death,” he said.

Mbuyazi has a degree from Oxford University and owns his own publishing house, Mbuyazi Publishing, with which he aims to encourage other Zulu authors to produce literature in their mother tongue.

The company came into existence after refusals at other publishers, which said there is “no market for Zulu literature”.

A study in 2011 showed that no Zulu literature, except religious and books, had been published for a full year.

One of South Africa’s eleven official languages, Zulu is the native tongue of approximately 50 million of the country’s population.

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