Native toDemocratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan
speakers(L1: 1.8 million cited 1996–2017)[1]
L2: 100,000[2]
  • Dio
  • Makaraka
Language codes
ISO 639-3zne

Zande is the largest of the Zande languages. It is spoken by the Azande, primarily in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and western South Sudan, but also in the eastern part of the Central African Republic. It is called Pazande in the Zande language and Kizande in Lingala.

Estimates about the number of speakers vary; in 2001 Koen Impens cited studies that put the number between 700,000 and one million.[3]

There are no local dialects exits in Zande language and only very minor difference in pronunciation.[4]



Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Labio-
Nasal m n ɲ
Plosive voiceless p t k k͡p
prenasal ᵐb ⁿd ᵑɡ ᵑɡ͡b
voiced b d ɡ ɡ͡b
Fricative voiceless f s
prenasal ᶬv ⁿz
voiced v z
Rhotic r ~ ɽ
Approximant j w


Oral and Nasal vowels
Front Back
unrounded rounded
Close i ĩ u ũ
Near-close ɪ ɪ̃ ʊ ʊ̃
Close-mid e o õ
Open-mid ɛ ɛ̃ ʌ ʌ̃ ɔ ɔ̃
Open a ã

Writing system

Zande spelling rules were established at the 1928 Rejaf Language Conference[6] following the principles of the International African Institute.[7]

Zande alphabet of Gore 1931[8]
a b d e f g i k m n o ö p s t u v w y z

Nasalized vowels are indicated using the tilde : ⟨ã ẽ ĩ õ ũ⟩. Consonants with double articulation are represented by digraphs: ⟨gb kp mv nv ny⟩.

In 1959, Archibald Norman Tucker published a Zande alphabet proposed during the Bangenzi Conference of 1941.[9]

Zande alphabet of Tucker 1959
a ä b d e f g h i k m n o p r s t u v w y z

Nasalized vowels are indicated using the tilde : ã ẽ ĩ ĩ̧ õ ũ ũ̧ r̃. Consonants with double articulation are represented by digraphs or trigraphs : kp gb ny mb nv nd nz ng ngb mgb

SIL International published a Zande alphabet in 2014.[10]

Zande alphabet (SIL)
a ə b d e f g gb h i ɨ k kp l m mb n nd ngb nv ny nz o p s t u ʉ v w y z

Sample text in Zande (Jehovah's Witnesses)

Avunguagudee, oni nangarasa rukutu awironi na gu sosono yo i mangi agu asunge dunduko na ngbarago i afuhe fuyo i mangihe, singia si tii Bambu Kindo yo, watadu ba bakere adunguratise yo?


Parents, do you encourage your children and teenagers to work cheerfully at any assignment that they are given to do, whether at the Kingdom Hall, at an assembly, or at a convention site?



1) Personal Pronouns

Subject Form Objective Form
I/me mi re
you/thou/thee (singular) mo ro
he/him ko ko
she/her ro ri
he/she (indef. gender)/him/her ni ni
we/us ani rani
you (plural)/you oni roni
they/them i/yo yo

2)      The Animal Pronoun

Subjective Form Objective Form
it u ru
they/them ru ra

The Objective forms of these pronouns are regularly used as suffixes denoting the first or intimate form of the Genitive. Those nouns which end in se drop this syllable before the suffixed pronoun.[11] For instance,

boro -> ‘person’, borore -> ‘my body’

ngbaduse -> ‘chest’, ngbadure -> ‘my chest’

kpu -> ‘home’, kpuro -> ‘thou home’

3) Possessive pronouns

mine gimi
thine/yours gamo
his gako
hers gari
his/hers (indef. gender) gani
its(animal) gau
its (neuter) gaa
ours gaani
yours gaoni
theirs gayo
theirs (animal) gaami

Possessive pronouns can be used as reflexive pronouns.[12] For instance,

Mi ye ti gimi -> ‘I have come myself.’

A ndu ti gani -> ‘Let us go ourselves.’

4). The Reflexive Pronoun

myself tire
thyself (singular) tiro
himself tiko
herself tiri
itself (animal) tiru
itself (neuter) tie
ourselves tirani
yourselves tironi
themselves tiyo
themselves tira

For example, Mi a mangi e ni tire -> ‘I did it by (with) myself.’

The substantive

Pluralisation: Pluralising a noun in Zande language is often done by adding "a" before a singular noun.[13]

For example:

boro 'a person' -> aboro 'people'

nya 'a beast' ->  anya 'beasts'

e 'a thing' -> ae 'things'


Verbs often change tense by adding the corresponding tense marker.[14] For instance:

Besides, the verb doesn't change with their subject noun/pronoun.[15] For instance

Verbal negation is expressed by placing nga after the verb and then ending the negative statement with the particle te or ya at the end of the sentence.

Negative auxiliaries are separated to enclose subordinate clauses contained in the main negative statement, so affirmative verbs can usually be surrounded by them.

Verb + nga…te/ya (te/ya is put at the end of the whole sentence)

The indicative 'nga… te'

The Imperative 'nga…ya'

For instance,

a). Mi a manga a -> 'I do it'

Mi a manga nga a te -> 'I do not do it.'

Ka mo ni mangi nga a ya -> 'Do not do it.'


The Zande have a more limited method of counting, never exceeding the numbers 20 and 40. Usually Zande people count by counting fingers and toes. Therefore when a number over twenty is counted another person must count the number beyond twenty and so on. So all the numbers over twenty or over ten are not separate numbers but are described in a sentence.[17]

1). The system of 1-5

sa 'one', ue 'two', biata 'three', biama 'four', bisue 'five'

2). When the number exceeds five, it must be transferred to the other hand to continue counting, so that 6-9 are based on five and are obtained by constantly adding 1-4.

3). When the counting goes to 10 it becomes a simple numeral again

4). 11-14

So that the 11 and 12 in Zande are:

5). When the counting goes to 15 it is a simple numeral

6). 16-19 is an additive operation that builds on 15

7). A person's hands and feet add up to 20 digits, so the expression for 20 is "a person stands it."

8). Above 20

9). 30

boro re e zi be boro yo bawe -> 30 (lit., a person stands it, take from the person there 10)

10). 40 (20+20)

boro ru e ue -> 40 (lit., person stands it 2)

11). Larger Numbers

kama -> 100, kama na ue bawe -> 120 (na -> and)

ue kama -> 200

kuti -> 1,000

ue kuti -> 2,000

mirioni -> 1,000,000


Word Order

S + V + O

Mi nga gude -> 'I am a boy'

mi -> 'I', nga -> 'am', (to be), gude -> 'boy'

The order of possessor noun-possessed noun in relation

bami -> 'my father'

(ba -> 'father', mi -> 'my')

possessed noun needs to add a suffix (objective pronoun form) to express what it is belonged to whom.[18]

kporo -> 'a village' (abbr. Kpu)

kpure -> 'my home', kpuro -> 'thy home' , kpuko -> 'his home'

before a noun is becomes KU

ku kuma ->'a man’s home' (kuma -> 'man', ku -> 'home')

ku Gangura -> 'Gangura’s home'

The order of demonstrative-noun in relation

Demonstrative Adjectives

gere -> 'this', gi…re      agi…re -> 'these' (plural)

gure -> 'that', gu…re.     agu…re -> 'those' (plural)

Mo fu gere fe re -> 'give me this'

Mo di gure -> 'take this'

When they are used with noun pronouns, the syllables need to be separated so that they surround the noun pronoun and sometimes include the entire clause that modifies the noun pronoun.[19]

gi boro re -> 'this person'

gi ko re -> 'this man'

agi aboro re -> 'these people'

agi yo re -> 'these people' (lit. these they)

agu bambu re -> 'those house' (bambu -> 'house')

The order of numeral-noun in relation

the number add always behind the noun and the noun usually uses its singular form

For instance,

sape bisue -> 'five knives'

The serial verb constructions with "ki"

Eg1. Yesu ki bi yo i ni pe ko -> 'Jesus saw them following him.'

(bi -> 'saw', yo -> 'them', i ni pe -> 'following', ko -> 'him')

Eg2. Mi a ndu ki bo ko -> 'I went and saw him.'

Eg3. Ko a ndu ki mangi e ki yega -> 'He went and did it and came home.'

Forming a comparative construction

wa -> 'like' it is usually put before the adjective

ti -> 'than' it is usually put after the adjective

susa (i) -> to surpass


  1. ^ Zande at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  2. ^ zande at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  3. ^ Impens, Koen (2001). "Essai de bibliographie des Azande". Annales Aequatoria. 22: 449–514.
  4. ^ Gore, Canon E. (1926). A Zande Grammar. London: The Sheldon Press. p. 7.
  5. ^ Landi, Germain (2019). Phonologie et morphophonologie de la langue Zandé. Universität zu Köln.
  6. ^ Impens 2001.
  7. ^ Gore 1931, p. 1.
  8. ^ Gore 1931.
  9. ^ Tucker 1959, p. 94.
  10. ^ SIL International 2014.
  11. ^ Gore, Canon E. (1926). A Zande Grammar. London: The Sheldon Press. p. 29.
  12. ^ Gore, Canon E. (1926). A Zande Grammar. London: The Sheldon Press. p. 32.
  13. ^ Gore, Canon E. (1926). A Zande Grammar. London: The Sheldon Press. p. 23.
  14. ^ Gore, Canon E. (1926). A Zande Grammar. London: The Sheldon Press. p. 47.
  15. ^ Gore, Canon E. (1926). A Zande Grammar. London: The Sheldon Press. p. 9.
  16. ^ Gore, Canon E. (1926). A Zande Grammar. London: The Sheldon Press. pp. 43–44.
  17. ^ Gore, Canon E. (1926). A Zande Grammar. London: The Sheldon Press. pp. 43–44.
  18. ^ Gore, Canon E. (1926). A Zande Grammar. London: The Sheldon Press. pp. 32, 38.
  19. ^ Gore, Canon E. (1926). A Zande Grammar. London: The Sheldon Press. p. 37.