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[African Languages]

Tshivenda (Venda)

[ General information | Overview | Diacritics | Stories & poems | Dictionaries | Books | Translation | Radio stations | Links ]

General information
Name: Tshivenda
English name: Venda
Population: 1,170,000
ISO code: ven
Spoken in the following countries: South Africa (Official), Zimbabwe

Overview

Tshivenda is one of the official languages of South Africa, where there are 1,021,757 (2.28 %) first language speakers [2001 census data]. There are also approximately 150,000 speakers in Zimbabwe, mostly in the south of the country.

Entering Venda characters on a computer (i.e. Venda diacritics)

Note: To enter Tshivenda characters in Windows, you can use the 'South African Keyboard' software driver created by translate.org.za.

Another alternative is Samuel Murray's neat little Zakey program.

The Tshivenda orthography (writing system) has five characters that contain diacritics (shown above). These characters do not appear on a standard keyboard. The fonts that come with Windows also do not support these characters. However, these characters are present in the Unicode character set, and thus can be entered on Unicode-enabled operating systems, such as Windows 2000/XP, Linux, and Apple Mac OS X. (Unicode is an international character set standard that supports most world languages.) By simply installing a font that includes these characters, these characters can be entered into a computer, and can also be displayed on a web page. Major word processing applications such as OpenOffice and Microsoft Word do support the entering of Unicode characters.

(Note that using Unicode is the only "correct" way to represent these characters within documents; in the long-term, documents stored using other non-standard and/or proprietary methods will have to be specially converted later on, while documents encoded from the start using Unicode will continue to work, because Unicode is "the standard".)

To use the Venda diacritics, first download and/or install a font that supports them, e.g. DejaVu. If you are using Windows, download the Windows version of the DejaVu font ("TrueType fonts packed as zip archive"), and unzip the files to your hard disk. Using Windows Explorer, copy the font files (.ttf files) into your system fonts directory ("C:\Windows\Fonts" for Windows XP, Windows 98 and Windows ME; "C:\WinNT\Fonts" for Windows 2000). You might need to restart your computer.

If your system is correctly configured, you should see the special Venda characters in the following table: (You may need to close and re-open your browser if you have just installed the fonts)

LATIN CAPITAL LETTER N WITH DOT ABOVE
LATIN SMALL LETTER N WITH DOT ABOVE
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER D WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
LATIN SMALL LETTER D WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER L WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
LATIN SMALL LETTER L WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER N WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
LATIN SMALL LETTER N WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER T WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
LATIN SMALL LETTER T WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW

Once you have the right font(s) installed, you still need to be able to actually enter these characters in e.g. a word processor.

Instructions for OpenOffice: Select "Insert/Special Character" from the menu. Select the appropriate font under "Font" (e.g. Gentium or Arial Unicode MS), then select "Latin Extended Additionals" under "Subset". From here, you can double-click on a character to insert that character into your document. (It is suggested that you record a macro for this action, and associate a keyboard shortcut with the macro, so that you do not need to do this every time.)

Fonts that are known to include Venda characters

  • DejaVu (available for Linux, Windows, (Mac?))
  • Victor Gaultney's Gentium font (available for Linux, Mac and Windows)
  • Doulous SIL (available for Linux, Mac and Windows)
  • Arial Unicode MS (Windows): This extensive Unicode font from Microsoft comes with Microsoft Office XP, and is installed if you install the "International Features". See the link for details and installation instructions.

If you know of any more, please contact me.

Web developers: Including Venda characters in a web page

None of the standard 8-bit ISO-8859 character sets, nor the Microsoft Windows codepages, are sufficient for Venda; a Unicode-based character set encoding system must be used. There are at least two possible "correct" (i.e. standards-conforming) ways to include a Venda character in a web page:

  1. Use "&#x", followed by the hexademical Unicode 'code point' value, followed by a semicolon, e.g. inserting Ṅ will produce: (generally, if the font supports it). The Unicode values are shown in the table below.
  2. Use utf-8 encoding. This may be slightly harder than above, but is more space efficient, so the resulting file size will be smaller than using the above method.

ṄLATIN CAPITAL LETTER N WITH DOT ABOVE
ṅLATIN SMALL LETTER N WITH DOT ABOVE
ḒLATIN CAPITAL LETTER D WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
ḓLATIN SMALL LETTER D WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
ḼLATIN CAPITAL LETTER L WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
ḽLATIN SMALL LETTER L WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
ṊLATIN CAPITAL LETTER N WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
ṋLATIN SMALL LETTER N WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
ṰLATIN CAPITAL LETTER T WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW
ṱLATIN SMALL LETTER T WITH CIRCUMFLEX BELOW

If you encode your page using utf-8, you must specify this in the "Content-Type" meta tag, that is, you should include a line such as the following immediately after the "head" tag:
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">

Note regarding web browsers: Internet Explorer appears to require that you specify a font that supports these characters, otherwise it displays hollow squares. More modern web browsers such as FireFox appear to 'intelligently' automatically find a font that supports these characters when necessary, and display them correctly without anything additional required from the web page author.

Windows 'Character Map' Tool

In general, you can use "Windows Character Map" to locate such non-keyboard characters in Windows. This tool can be found under "Start / Programs / Accessories / System Tools". Character Map displays the Unicode encoding value for each character (e.g. the "1E44" for "latin capital letter n with dot above"), and if an "Alt-number" keystroke is available for a character, it is also shown.

Apple Mac OS X 'Character Palette'

On Mac OS X, the "Character Palette" provides similar (but superior) functionality to Character Map on Windows, and will allow Venda characters to be easily located and entered into any application. (The Mac's built-in font support is also superior to Windows - many more of the Unicode characters are available by default.)

Stories & poems

A short story and two poems, published with permission from the author, Mbodi Khorombi:
      Lushaka lwo senwaho
      Zwanda zwi a tanzwana
      Tshilamba u vhudzwa ndi tshilila u vhona

Venda dictionaries

Books

Venda Dictionary
Venda Dictionary (Van Warmelo). Venda - English, 490 pages.
[ Buy from Kalahari.net | Buy from Amazon.com ]

Books

Learning Tshivenda

Translation

  • TRANSLATION SERVICES TshwaneDJe Language Services (Translation, Proofreading, Editing, Transcription and more, for all official South African languages and most major world languages).

Radio stations

Links

Projects

http://www.translate.org.za/
A non-profit organization translating various OpenSource software packages such as OpenOffice.org and the Mozilla web browser into all official South African languages. They have released isiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa and Afrikaans versions of OpenOffice.

Wikipedia Tshivenda