Sotho language

Last updated

Sotho
Sesotho
Pronunciation [sɪ̀sʊ́tʰʊ̀]
Native to Lesotho, South Africa, Zimbabwe
Ethnicity Basotho
Native speakers
5.6 million (2001–2011) [1]
7.9 million L2 speakers in South Africa (2002) [2]
Latin (Sesotho orthography)
Sotho Braille
Signed Sotho
Official status
Official language in
Flag of Lesotho.svg  Lesotho
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe
Regulated by Pan South African Language Board
Language codes
ISO 639-1 st
ISO 639-2 sot
ISO 639-3 sot
Glottolog sout2807 [3]
S.33 [4]
Linguasphere 99-AUT-ee incl. varieties 99-AUT-eea to 99-AUT-eee
The Sesotho Language
PersonMosotho
PeopleBasotho
LanguageSesotho
Country Lesotho

Sotho ( /ˈst/ [5] or Sesotho ( /sɛˈst/ ) [6] is a Southern Bantu language of the Sotho-Tswana (S.30) group, spoken primarily by the Basotho in Lesotho, where it is the national and official language; South Africa, where it is one of the 11 official languages; and in Zimbabwe where it is one of 16 official languages.

Contents

Like all Bantu languages, Sesotho is an agglutinative language, which uses numerous affixes and derivational and inflexional rules to build complete words.

Classification

Sotho is a Southern Bantu language, belonging to the Niger–Congo language family within the Sotho-Tswana branch of Zone S (S.30).

Although Southern Sotho shares the name Sotho with Northern Sotho, the two groups have less in common with each other than they have with Setswana.[ citation needed ]

"Sotho" is also the name given to the entire Sotho-Tswana group, in which case Sesotho proper is called "Southern Sotho". Within the Sotho-Tswana group, Southern Sotho is most closely related to Lozi (Silozi), with which it forms the Sesotho-Lozi group within Sotho-Tswana.

The Northern Sotho group is geographical, and includes a number of dialects also closely related to Sotho-Lozi. Tswana is also known as "Western Sesotho".

The Sotho-Tswana group is in turn closely related to the other Southern Bantu languages, including the Venda, Tsonga, Tonga, Lozi which is native to Zambia and the other surrounding Southern African countries and Nguni languages, and possibly[ clarification needed ] also the Makua (zone P) languages of Tanzania and Mozambique.

Sotho is the root word. Various prefixes may be added for specific derivations, such as Sesotho for the Sotho language and Basotho for the Sotho people. Use of Sesotho rather than Sotho for the language in English has seen increasing use since the 1980s, especially in South African English and in Lesotho.

Dialects

A Mosotho woman holding up a sign protesting violence against women, written in her native Sesotho language, at a National Women's Day protest at the National University of Lesotho. The sign translates: "If you do not listen to women, we will lose patience with you." (2008) National Women's Day detail Sesotho.jpg
A Mosotho woman holding up a sign protesting violence against women, written in her native Sesotho language, at a National Women's Day protest at the National University of Lesotho. The sign translates: "If you do not listen to women, we will lose patience with you." (2008)

Except for faint lexical variation within Lesotho, and for marked lexical variation between the Lesotho/Free State variety and that of the large urban townships to the north (such as Soweto) due to heavy borrowing from neighbouring languages, there is no discernible dialect variation in this language.

However, one point that seems to often confuse authors who attempt to study the dialectology of Sesotho is the term Basotho , which can variously mean "Sotho–Tswana speakers," "Southern Sotho and Northern Sotho speakers," "Sesotho speakers," and "residents of Lesotho." The Nguni language Phuthi has been heavily influenced by Sesotho; its speakers have mixed Nguni and Sotho–Tswana ancestry. It seems that it is sometimes treated erroneously as a dialect of Sesotho called "Sephuthi." However, Phuthi is mutually unintelligible with standard Sesotho and thus cannot in any sense be termed a dialect of it. The occasional tendency to label all minor languages spoken in Lesotho as "dialects" of Sesotho is considered patronising,[ by whom? ] in addition to being linguistically inaccurate and in part serving a national myth that all citizens of Lesotho have Sesotho as their mother tongue.

Additionally, being derived from a language or dialect very closely related to modern Sesotho, [7] the Zambian Sotho–Tswana language Lozi is also sometimes cited as a modern dialect of Sesotho named Serotse or Sekololo.

The oral history of the Basotho and Northern Sotho peoples (as contained in their liboko) states that 'Mathulare, a daughter of the chief of the Bafokeng nation (an old and respected people), was married to chief Tabane of the (Southern) Bakgatla (a branch of the Bahurutse, who are one of the most ancient of the Sotho–Tswana tribes), and bore the founders of five tribes: Bapedi (by Mopedi), Makgolokwe (by Kgetsi), Baphuthing (by Mophuthing, and later the Mzizi of Dlamini, connected with the present-day Ndebele), Batlokwa (by Kgwadi), and Basia (by Mosia). These were the first peoples to be called "Basotho", before many of their descendants and other peoples came together to form Moshoeshoe I's nation in the early 19th century. The situation is even further complicated by various historical factors, such as members of parent clans joining their descendants or various clans calling themselves by the same names (because they honour the same legendary ancestor or have the same totem).

An often repeated story is that when the modern Basotho nation was established by King Moshoeshoe I, his own "dialect" Sekwena was chosen over two other popular variations Setlokwa and Setaung and that these two still exist as "dialects" of modern Sesotho.[ citation needed ] The inclusion of Setlokwa in this scenario is confusing, as the modern language named "Setlokwa" is a Northern Sesotho language spoken by descendants of the same Batlokwa whose attack on the young chief Moshoeshoe's settlement during Lifaqane (led by the famous widow Mmanthatisi) caused them to migrate to present-day Lesotho. On the other hand, Doke & Mofokeng claims that the tendency of many Sesotho speakers to say for example ke ronngwe[kʼɪʀʊŋ̩ŋʷe] instead of ke romilwe[kʼɪʀuˌmilʷe] when forming the perfect of the passive of verbs ending in -ma[mɑ] (as well as forming their perfects with -mme[m̩me] instead of -mile[mile]) is "a relic of the extinct Tlokwa dialect".

Geographic distribution

Geographical distribution of Sotho in South Africa: proportion of the population that speaks Sotho at home.
.mw-parser-output div.columns-2 div.column{float:left;width:50%;min-width:300px}.mw-parser-output div.columns-3 div.column{float:left;width:33.3%;min-width:200px}.mw-parser-output div.columns-4 div.column{float:left;width:25%;min-width:150px}.mw-parser-output div.columns-5 div.column{float:left;width:20%;min-width:120px}
0-20%
20-40%
40-60%
60-80%
80-100% South Africa Sotho speakers proportion map.svg
Geographical distribution of Sotho in South Africa: proportion of the population that speaks Sotho at home.
Geographical distribution of Sotho in South Africa: density of Sotho home-language speakers.
<1 /km2
1-3 /km2
3-10 /km2
10-30 /km2
30-100 /km2
100-300 /km2
300-1000 /km2
1000-3000 /km2
>3000 /km2 South Africa Sotho speakers density map.svg
Geographical distribution of Sotho in South Africa: density of Sotho home-language speakers.

According to the South African National Census of 2011, there were almost four million first language Sesotho speakers recorded in South Africa – approximately eight per cent of the population. Most Sesotho speakers in South Africa reside in Free State and Gauteng. Sesotho is also the main language spoken by the people of Lesotho, where, according to 1993 data, it was spoken by about 1,493,000 people, or 85% of the population. The census fails to record other South Africans for whom Sesotho is a second or third language. Such speakers are found in all major residential areas of Metropolitan Municipalities - such as Johannesburg, and Tshwane - where multilingualism and polylectalism are very high.[ citation needed ]

Official status

Sesotho is one of the eleven official languages of South Africa, one of the two official languages of Lesotho and one of the sixteen official languages of Zimbabwe.

Derived languages

Sesotho is one of the many languages from which the pseudo-language Tsotsitaal is derived. Tsotsitaal is not a proper language, as it is primarily a unique vocabulary and a set of idioms but used with the grammar and inflexion rules of another language (usually Sesotho or Zulu). It is a part of the youth culture in most Southern Gauteng "townships" and is the primary language used in Kwaito music.

Phonology

The sound system of Sesotho is unusual in many respects. It has ejective consonants, click consonants, a uvular trill, a relatively large number of affricate consonants, no prenasalised consonants, and a rare form of vowel-height (alternatively, advanced tongue root) harmony. In total, the language contains some 39 consonantal [8] and 9 vowel phonemes.

It also has a large number of complex sound transformations which often change the phones of words due to the influence of other (sometimes invisible) sounds.


  Labial Alveolar Post-
alveolar
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
central lateral
Click glottalized    ǃˀ    
aspirated    ǃʰ    
nasal   ᵑǃ    
Nasal mn ɲŋ  
Stop ejective      
aspirated      
voiced b(d)1      
Affricate ejective  tsʼtɬʼtʃʼ    
aspirated  tsʰtɬʰtʃʰ kxʰ / x  
Fricative voicelessfsɬʃ  h ~ ɦ
voiced   ʒ /    
Approximant   l jw  
Trill       ʀ 
  1. [d] is an allophone of /l/, occurring only before the close vowels (/i/ and /u/). Dialectical evidence shows that in the Sotho–Tswana languages /l/ was originally pronounced as a retroflex flap [ɽ] before the two close vowels.

Sesotho makes a three-way distinction between lightly ejective, aspirated and voiced stops in several places of articulation.

The standard Sesotho clicks tend to be substituted with dental clicks in regular speech.

Grammar

The most striking properties of Sesotho grammar, and the most important properties which reveal it as a Bantu language, are its noun gender and concord systems. The grammatical gender system does not encode sex gender, and indeed, Bantu languages in general are not grammatically marked for gender.

Another well-known property of the Bantu languages is their agglutinative morphology. Additionally, they tend to lack any grammatical case systems, indicating noun roles almost exclusively through word order.

See also

Notes

  1. Sotho at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Webb, Vic. 2002. "Language in South Africa: the role of language in national transformation, reconstruction and development." Impact: Studies in language and society, 14:78
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Southern Sotho". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  5. "Sotho". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. Historically also spelled Suto, or Suthu, Souto, Sisutho, Sutu, or Sesutu.
  7. to the extent that it even has several words that resemble Sesotho words with clicks:
    ku kala to begin (Sesotho ho qala[hʊǃɑlɑ])
    ku kabana to quarrel (Sesotho ho qabana[hʊǃɑbɑnɑ]),
    one could just as easily say that these words were imported from Nguni languages (ukuqala and ukuxabana, which is where the Sesotho versions come from), and the language does also contain words resembling click words from Nguni but not from Sesotho (such as ku kabanga to think, c.f. Zulu ukucabanga).
  8. 75 if you include the labialized consonants.

Related Research Articles

Northern Sotho language language

Northern Sotho or Sesotho sa Leboa, also known by the name of its standardised dialect Pedi or Sepedi, is a Sotho-Tswana language spoken in South Africa's northeastern provinces of Limpopo, Gauteng, and parts of Mpumalanga. According to the South African National Census of 2011, it is the first language of over 4,6 million(9,1%) people, making it the 5th most spoken language in South Africa.

Tswana language Bantu language

The Tswana language is a Bantu language spoken in Southern Africa by about five million speakers. It is a Bantu language belonging to the Niger–Congo language family within the Sotho-Tswana branch of Zone S (S.30), and is closely related to the Northern and Southern Sotho languages, as well as the Kgalagadi language and the Lozi language.

Xhosa language Language of the Xhosa people

Xhosa, also isiXhosa, is a Nguni Bantu language with click consonants and is one of the official languages of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Xhosa is spoken as a first language by approximately 8.2 million people and by another 11 million as a second language in South Africa, mostly in Eastern Cape Province, Western Cape, Gauteng and Northern Cape. It is also notable for having perhaps the heaviest functional load of click consonants in a Bantu language, with one count finding that 10% of basic vocabulary items contained a click.

The term Batlôkwa refers to several Kgatla communities that reside in Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa. It is comprised by the followers of Tlôkwa kings and the members of clans identified as Tlôkwa, or individuals who identify themselves as of Tlôkwa descent. Most of the Batlôkwa clans trace their royal lineages to Kgwadi son of King Tabane, who was the father and founder of the Batlokwa nation. The Tlôkwa considers the Tlokwe-cat as their original totem which has since become extinct due to over-hunting for its fur, which was used by clan chiefs.

The Nguni languages are a group of Bantu languages spoken in southern Africa by the Nguni peoples. Nguni languages include Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Swati, Hlubi, Phuthi, Bhaca, Lala, Nhlangwini, Southern Transvaal Ndebele, and Sumayela Ndebele. The appellation "Nguni" derives from the Nguni cattle type. Ngoni is an older, or a shifted, variant.

Sotho–Tswana languages are a group of closely related Bantu languages spoken in Southern Africa. The Sotho–Tswana group corresponds to the S.30 label in Guthrie's (1967–1971) classification of languages in the Bantu family.

Sotho people Basotho (Southern Sotho) - ethnic group in Southern Africa

The Sotho people, or Basotho, are a Bantu ethnic group of Southern Africa who speak Sesotho. They are native to modern Lesotho and South Africa. The Basotho have inhabited the region since around the fifth century CE and are closely related to other Bantu peoples of the region.

Moshoeshoe I King of Lesotho

Moshoeshoe was born at Menkhoaneng in the northern part of present-day Lesotho. He was the first son of Mokhachane, a minor chief of the Bamokoteli lineage- a branch of the Koena (crocodile) clan. In his youth, he helped his father gain power over some other smaller clans. At the age of 34 Moshoeshoe formed his own clan and became a chief. He and his followers settled at the Butha-Buthe Mountain. He subsequently became the first King of Lesotho from to 1822–1870.

Lozi, also known as siLozi and Rozi, is a Bantu language of the Niger–Congo language family within the Sotho–Tswana branch of Zone S (S.30), that is spoken by the Lozi people, primarily in southwestern Zambia and in surrounding countries. This language is most closely related to Northern Sotho, Tswana (Setswana), Kgalagari (SheKgalagari) and Sotho. Lozi and its dialects are spoken and understood by approximately six percent of the population of Zambia. Silozi is the endonym as defined by the United Nations. Lozi is the exonym.

Sotho may refer to:

Languages of South Africa Languages of a geographic region

At least thirty-five languages indigenous to South Africa are spoken in the Republic, ten of which are official languages of South Africa: Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venḓa, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans. The eleventh official language is English, which is the primary language used in parliamentary and state discourse, though all official languages are equal in legal status, and unofficial languages are protected under the Constitution of South Africa, though few are mentioned by any name. South African Sign Language has legal recognition but is not an official language, despite a campaign and parliamentary recommendation for it to be declared one.

Phuthi (Síphùthì) is a Nguni Bantu language spoken in southern Lesotho and areas in South Africa adjacent to the same border. The closest substantial living relative of Phuthi is Swati, spoken in Swaziland and the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. Although there is no contemporary sociocultural or political contact, Phuthi is linguistically part of a historic dialect continuum with Swati. Phuthi is heavily influenced by the surrounding Sesotho and Xhosa languages, but retains a distinct core of lexicon and grammar not found in either Xhosa or Sesotho, and found only partly in Swati to the north.

Tsotsitaal is a vernacular derived from a variety of mixed languages mainly spoken in the townships of Gauteng province, but also in other agglomerations all over South Africa. Tsotsi is a Sesotho, Pedi or Tswana slang word for a "thug" or "robber" or "criminal", possibly from the verb "ho lotsa" "to sharpen", whose meaning has been modified in modern times to include "to con"; or from the tsetse fly, as the language was first known as Flytaal, although flaai also means "cool" or "street smart". The word taal in Afrikaans means "language".

Sotho-Tswana peoples

The Sotho-Tswana people are a meta-ethnicity of southern Africa, who speak Sotho-Tswana languages and are centered across Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, and the sourthen portion of Zambia. The group consists of the Southern Sotho(Sotho), Northern Sotho(Pedi) and Western Sotho(Tswana).

The phonology of Sesotho and those of the other Sotho–Tswana languages are radically different from those of "older" or more "stereotypical" Bantu languages. Modern Sesotho in particular has very mixed origins inheriting many words and idioms from non-Sotho–Tswana languages.

The orthography of the Sotho language is fairly recent and is based on the Latin script, but, like most languages written using the Latin alphabet, it does not use all the letters; as well, several digraphs and trigraphs are used to represent single sounds.

The Southern Bantu languages are a large group of Bantu languages, largely validated in Janson (1991/92). They are nearly synonymous with Guthrie's Bantu zone S, apart from the exclusion of Shona and the inclusion of Makhuwa. They include all of the major Bantu languages of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Mozambique, with outliers such as Lozi in Zambia and Namibia, and Ngoni in Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi.

Lesotho, a country in Southern Africa, is home to several languages, including Phuthi, Sesotho, Xhosa, Zulu and English, — all, except for English, belong to the Niger–Congo language family.

Bobirwa Sub-district in Central District, Botswana

Bobirwa Subdistrict is a jurisdiction in Botswana. It is populated by the Babirwa (Ba-Birwa) people who came from Transvaal in present-day South Africa.

Ditema tsa Dinoko writing system for some Southern Bantu languages

Ditema tsa Dinoko, also known by its IsiZulu name, Isibheqe Sohlamvu, and various other related names in different languages, is a constructed writing system designed in the early 2010s for the siNtu or Southern Bantu languages, developed from antecedent ideographic traditions of the Southern African region. Its visual appearance is inspired by these, including the traditional litema arts style.

References

Software