Original Research

A contrastive analysis of articles in English and demonstratives in isiZulu

Elliot M. Mncwango
Literator | Vol 43, No 1 | a1863 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v43i1.1863 | © 2022 Elliot M. Mncwango | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 December 2021 | Published: 18 October 2022

About the author(s)

Elliot M. Mncwango, Department of General Linguistics and Modern Languages, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zululand, Kwa-Dlangezwa, South Africa


An analysis of the use of demonstratives in isiZulu (izabizwana zokukhomba) has shown that they go beyond the known deictic functions of demonstratives as used in other languages like English. In isiZulu, demonstratives tend to also denote specificity, a function normally performed by the definite article in English. This article, therefore, compares the functions of articles in English to those of demonstratives in isiZulu, with the aim to demonstrate the similarities in terms of use between the two languages. This added function of demonstratives, it is argued, may account for some of the errors in English second language learners’ use of articles, as evidenced by data from written exercises of learners whose first language is isiZulu. The findings suggest that second language learners of English tend to confuse articles because of the differences between the two languages, especially during their (learners’) interlanguage stage.

Contribution: The article highlights a significant difference in the use of demonstratives between English and isiZulu due to the added function of specificity in isiZulu demonstrative (isabizwana sokukhomba) which is performed by the definite article in English. It also demonstrates how, without an article system, isiZulu can convey meaning like any language with an article system.


articles; demonstratives; English; interlanguage; isiZulu; language transfer


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