Child Shona noun prefixes

  • Maxwell Kadenge
  • Catherine R Sibanda
Keywords: Shona, noun class prefix, mother tongue, child language acquisition, stage, morphology


This article falls under the broad area of child language acquisition and it aims to present an analysis of the acquisition of Shona noun class prefixes. The data collection procedures involved fortnightly observation and audio-recording of the spontaneous speech of three children who were acquiring Shona as a mother tongue. The results of this investigation confirm findings from earlier studies and show that noun class prefixes are acquired in three partially overlapping stages. In the first stage, nouns are produced without class prefixes and as time progresses, in the second stage, they are produced with them but in the form of an onsetless vowel. In the third stage, nouns are produced with full and phonologically appropriate class prefixes. The empirical and theoretical findings of this investigation are expected to broaden and deepen our knowledge of morphology and the phonology-morphology interface in the context of child language acquisition. As there are few descriptive and theoretical studies on the acquisition of Shona, this research recommends more studies on this subject.

Author Biographies

Maxwell Kadenge
Maxwell Kadenge teaches Phonetics and Phonology in the Department of Linguistics, School of Literature and Language Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. His research interests are in the areas of Southern Bantu phonology and African Englishes.E-mail: and  
Catherine R Sibanda
Cathrine Ruvimbo Sibanda teaches sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Zimbabwe. She is interested in doing research on the acquisition of the morphologies of Bantu languages and English as a second language.E-mail: