Tsonga language

Last updated

Native to
Ethnicity Tsonga
Native speakers
3.7 million (2006–2011) [1]
3.4 million L2 speakers in South Africa (2002) [2]
Latin (Tsonga alphabet)
Tsonga Braille
Signed Tsonga
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ts
ISO 639-2 tso
ISO 639-3 tso
Glottolog tson1249
S.53 (S.52) [3]
Linguasphere 99-AUT-dc incl. varieties 99-AUT-dca...
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
South Africa 2011 Tsonga speakers proportion map.svg
People Vatsonga

Tsonga ( /ˈtsɒŋɡə/ ) or Xitsonga (Tsonga:Xitsonga) as an endonym, is a Bantu language spoken by the Tsonga people of southern Africa. It is mutually intelligible with Tswa and Ronga and the name "Tsonga" is often used as a cover term for all three, also sometimes referred to as Tswa-Ronga. The Xitsonga language has been standardised for both academic and home use. Tsonga is an official language of South Africa, and under the name "Shangani" it is recognised as an official language in the Constitution of Zimbabwe. All Tswa-Ronga languages are recognised in Mozambique. It is not official in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland).



The Xitsonga language was studied in great detail by the Swiss missionary, Henri-Alexandre Junod between the years 1890 and 1920, who made the conclusion that the Xitsonga language (which he called the "Thonga language" at the time) began to develop in Mozambique even before the 1400s. In his own words, Junod states the following: [4]

My conclusion is then that the Thonga language was already-spoken by the primitive occupants of the country more than 500 years ago and that, together with a certain number of customs, it formed the great bond which bound the Thonga clans together in past centuries.

Further studies were carried out by Junod and other Swiss missionaries such as Henri Berthoud and Ernest Creux, who began to unify the language in order to have a standard way of writing and reading. "Shigwamba" was a term used by the missionaries in order to group the language under a unified identity, however the name was unfamiliar to many of the Tsonga people and had to be replaced with "Thonga/Tsonga". Harries makes reference to this: [5]

As the term Gwamba was unknown outside the Spelonken, Henri Berthoud recommended that the mission abandon the term and replace it with the widely accepted genericism, Tonga/Thonga.

Swiss missionaries engaged with the Tsonga people and used their assistance to translate the Bible from English and Sesotho into the Tsonga language. Paul Berthoud published the first book in 1883 which came as a result of the help he received from the translations by Mpapele (Mbizana) or Mandlati (Zambiki). The two men were active in teaching and translating the language to the missionaries since none of the missionaries were familiar with it and had to dedicate much of their time to learn it. The language of the Tsonga people and the dialects were put into print and the first books were published. The language was later on finally registered as "Xitsonga" within the Constitution of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) and it was declared an official language. The standardization of the Xitsonga language as a result made it possible for the Tsonga people to develop a common way of speaking and writing.


The name "Tsonga" is the root of Xitsonga (culture, language or ways of the Tsonga), Mutsonga (a Tsonga person), Vatsonga (Tsonga people), etc. In the language of the Vatsonga themselves, the root never appears by itself. It is Tsonga for the ease and accessibility of the wider international community.

As for the origins of the name, there are three theories. The first states that Tsonga is another pronunciation for Dzonga, which means "South" and also the name of one of the dialects of Xitsonga. The second theory is that it is an alternate spelling of the old ancestral name of the Chopi and Tembe groups, Tonga/Thonga. [6] The other Zulu explanation for the alternative spelling of "Thonga" is that the Tembe and Rhonga people, who were the first to arrive at the Delagoa Bay and around the Natal Bay, transitioned the Rhonga "Rh" into the Zulu form of "Th". An example is rhuma (Tsonga word for "send") becomes thuma (Zulu word for the same action). The third and most accepted is that it is another pronunciation for "Rhonga", the root for the word "vurhonga" for east or the direction where the sun rises. Vurhonga also means dawn in Xitsonga. Rhonga (commonly and wrongly spelt as Ronga) is one of the Tsonga languages. The physical evidence of most Tsonga people residing along the eastern coast of Africa in the south, extending inland in a westward direction, makes this explanation especially inviting. However Junod had initially used the Ronga appellation but had also realized that the northern clans did not frequently use the name 'Ronga' as their identity name, but most certainly Tsonga is a derivation of Ronga.

Much of the written history about the Tsonga regards the aftermath of the mfecane where the Nguni people overran many of the pre-existing African tribes of South Africa, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

Languages and dialects

Tsonga dialects

Tsonga is a Bantu language (Guthrie code S.53), closely related to other members to the Tswa-Ronga group (S.50):

  1. Ronga (Rhonga) dialects are Kalanga (Xinyisa, Xindindindi (Xizingili), Putru, and Xinyondroma.
  2. Tsonga (Gwamba, Gwapa) dialects are Bila (Vila), Djonga (Dzonga, Jonga), Hlanganu (Langanu, Nhlanganu), Hlave (Mbayi, Nkuna, Pai), Kande, Khosa, Luleke, N'walungu (Ngwalungu), Nkuma, Songa, Valoyi, Xika, and Xonga.
  3. Tswa (Tshwa) dialects are Dzibi (Dzivi), Dzibi-Dzonga (Dzivi-Dzonga), Tshwa, Hlengwe (Lengwe, Lhenge), Khambani, Makwakwe-Khambani, Mandla, Ndxhonge, and Nhayi (Nyai, Nyayi).

Some dialects are subdialects but have been mentioned here for completeness. For example, Valoyi and Luleke comprise the N'walungu dialect. There is no Gwamba dialect as Gwamba is another name for Xitsonga itself. Formally Xitsonga has been called Gwamba. Tswa-Ronga dialects not considered part of the family include Pulana (Xipulana, Sepulane). What is commonly referred to as "Shangana/Changana" is not a recognized language in South Africa and is not a dialect that falls within the Xitsonga language group, as its distinctiveness stems mainly from the use of the Nguni language and grammar.

Only six Thonga/Tsonga dialects exist and these were identified by the dawn of the 1900s. These are namely xiRonga, xiHlanganu, xiBila, xiDjonga, xiN'walungu, and xiHlengwe. All other variations within South Africa are sub-dialects of the aforementioned. The dialects most spoken in the rural communities of Limpopo are the N'walungu, Bila, Hlengwe, and the Hlanganu dialects. The Xitsonga vocabulary and phonetic permutations are also largely based on these dialects (cf. Junod 1912, p. 470-473)

For "language of", the various languages and dialects employ one or more of the following prefixes: Bi-, Chi-, Ci-, Gi-, Ici-, Ki-, Ma-, Shee-, Shi-, Txi-, Va-, Wa-, and Xi-. For "people of", they use either "Ba-" or "Va-".


LetterIPA Value [7] LetterIPA Value [7] LetterIPA Value [7] LetterIPA Value [7]
iibhtshtsʰ, tsᶲʰsw, sᶲ
oɔbytswtsʷ, tsᶲzz


Tsonga has a distinction between modal and breathy voiced consonants: /bʱ, bvʱ, vʱ, dʱ, ɖʐʱ, dʒʱ, ɡʱ/ vs /b, bv, v, d, ɖʐ, dʒ, ɡ/ among the obstruents (the one exception being /ɮ/), and /m̤, n̤, ŋ̈, r̤, ȷ̈, w̤/ vs /m, n, ŋ, r, j, w/ among the sonorants (the one exception being /ɲ/). The segmental inventory is as follows: [7]


Front Central Back
Close i , ( ĩ ), u ,
Mid ɛ , ( ), ɛː ( ə̃ ) ɔ , ɔː
Open a , ã ,

Long vowels are written double. Nasalized vowels are not distinguished in writing; [ĩ, ẽ, ə̃] are only found in words for 'yes' and 'no', while [ã] is found in a few mimetic words. Mid vowels can vary from close-mid to open-mid; they are generally close-mid [e, o] before a high vowel, /i/ or /u/, and low-mid [ɛ, ɔ] otherwise. Vowels may be realized as murmured [i̤, a̤] when following breathy consonants.


Labial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Lateral Post-
Velar Glottal
plainpal.plainlab.plainlab.pal. wstld. plainlab.plainlab.plainlab.plainlab.pal.
Click voiceless ᵏǀ
aspirated ᵏǀʰ ᵏǀʷʰ
voiced ᶢǀ ᶢǀʷ
Nasal voiced m n ɲ ɲʷ ŋ ŋʷ
breathy nʷʱ ŋʱ ŋʷʱ
Stop voiceless p t tˡʷ k
aspirated pʲʰ tʷʰ tʲʰ tˡʰtˡʷʰ kʷʰ
voiced b d dˡʷ ɡ ɡʷ
breathy bʲʱ ɡʱ ɡʷʱ
Affricate voiceless p̪f ts tsʷ tsᶲ tʃʷ
aspirated p̪fʰ tsʰ tsʷʰ tsᶲʰ tʃʰ tʃʷʰ
voiced b̪v dz dzᵝ dʒʷ
breathy b̪vʱ dzʱ dzʷʱ dʒʱ
Fricative voiceless ɸ f s sᶲ ɬ ɬʷ ʃ ʃʷ x
voiced β v z ʒ ɦ ɦʷ ɦʲ
Trill voiced r
breathy rʷʱ
Approximant voiced l j w

Many of these consonants may be preceded by a nasal, but they are not prenasalized consonants: at least in word-initial position, they are nasalobstruent sequences where the nasals are syllabic.

Different consonant sounds may alternate the place of articulation. A number of Tsonga speakers vary the affricates from alveolar [ts], [tsʰ], [dz], [dzʱ], [dzʷʱ] to retroflex [tʂ], [tʂʰ], [dʐ], [dʐʱ], [dʐʷʱ]; the latter are weakly whistled in Tsonga proper and in Changana dialect. Labiodental [ɱ] and dental [n̪] appear in homorganic consonant clusters. [7]

Unlike some of the Nguni languages, Tsonga has very few words with click consonants, and these vary in place between dental [ᵏǀ], [ᵏǀʰ], [ᵏǀʷʰ], [ᶢǀ], [ᶢǀʷ] and postalveolar [ᵏ!], [ᵏ!ʰ], [ᵏ!ʷʰ], [ᶢ!], [ᶢ!ʷ]]. Examples are: ngqondo (mind), gqoka (wear/dress), guqa (kneel), riqingo (phone), qiqi (earring), qamba (compose), Mugqivela (Saturday).


The grammar is generally typical of Bantu languages with a subject–verb–object order. The structure changes to subject—object—verb when addressing another person:

Ndza ku rhandzaI you love (I love you)
Wa ndzi rhandzaYou love me
Ha ku tivaWe know you
Va ndzi tivaThey know me


Almost all infinitives have the prefix ku- and end with -a.

ku chavaTo fear
ku tsakaTo rejoice
ku rhandzato love

The main exception to this is the verb "ku ri" – "to say" It corresponds to "ti" in many other bantu languages. Examples of its usage include:
u ri yini? – What do you say? (What are you saying?)
ndzi ri ka n'wina – I say to you all.

In many instances the "ri" is often omitted and thus "ku" on its own can also mean "say".
Va ri ndza penga – They say I'm crazy.
Va ri yini? – What do they say? (What are they saying?)

Present tense
The present tense is formed by simply using the personal pronoun along with the verb.
Ndzi lava mali – I want money,
Hi tirha siku hinkwaro – We work all day,
Mi(u) lava mani? – Who are you looking for?
U kota ku famba – S/He knows how to walk.

Present progressive
Generally, to indicate ongoing actions in the present one takes the personal pronoun, drops the 'i' and adds 'a'.
Ndzi nghena (e)ndlwini – I am entering the house,
Ha tirha sweswi – We are working right now,
Ma hemba – You (plural) are lying,
Wa hemba – You (singular) are lying,
Wa hemba – S/He is lying,
With the plural 'va' (they) there is no difference. Thus 'va hemba' = they lie AND they are lying.

Past tense
This is for in one of three ways, depending on the word.
(i) Generally, one drops the 'a' from the verb and adds the prefix '-ile'
Ndzi nghenile ndlwini – I entered the house,
Hi tirhile siku hinkwaro – We worked all day,
U hembile – You lied,
U hembile – S/He lied,
Va hembile – They lied.

(ii) With verbs that end with -ala, the past tense changes to -ele or -ale.
ku rivala – to forget,
Ndzi rivele – I forgot, U rivele – you forgot, Va rivele – they forgot,
Ku nyamalala – To disappear,
U nyamalarile – S/He – disappeared,
Words used to describe a state of being also use the past tense.
Ku karhala – To be tired,
Ndzi karhele – I am tired, U karhele – S/He is tired, Va karhele – They are tired.

(iii) In many cases merely changing the last 'a' in the verb to an 'e' indicates past action.
Ku fika – To arrive,
U fike tolo – S/He arrived yesterday,
Ndzi fike tolo – I arrived yesterday,
Hi tirhe siku hinkwaro – We worked all day,
Ndzi nghene (e)ndlwini – I entered the house.

Future tense
This is formed by the adding 'ta' in between the personal pronoun and the verb.
Ndzi ta nghena (e)ndlwini – I will enter the house,
Hi ta tirha siku hinkwaro – We will work all day,
Va ta tirha siku hinkwaro – They will work all day,
Mi ta tirha siku hinkwaro – You (plural) will work all day.

Noun classes

Tsonga has several classes, much like other Bantu languages, which are learned through memorisation mostly. These are:

1mu- mufana "boy", murhangeri "leader", munhu "person"
2va- vafana "boys", varhangeri "leaders", vanhu "people"
3mu-, m-, n- nseve "arrow", nenge "leg", nambu "river"
4mi- miseve "arrows", milenge "legs", milambu "rivers"
5ri-, Ø- tiko "country", rito "word", vito "name"
6ma- matiko "countries", marito "words", mavito "names"
7xi- Xikwembu "God", xilo "thing", xitulu "chair"
8swi- Swikwembu "gods", swilo "things", switulu "chairs"
9yi(n)-, (n)- yindlu "house", mbyana "dog", homu "cow"
10tiyi(n), ti(n)- tiyindlu "houses", timbyana "dogs", tihomu "cows"
11ri- rihlaya "jaw", rivambu "rib", rintiho "finger"
14vu- vutomi "life", vumunhu "humanness", vululami "righteousness"
15ku- ku tshembha "to trust", ku dya "to eat", ku biha "ugliness"
21dyi- dyimunhu "abnormally huge person", dyiyindlu "abnormally huge house"

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns in Tsonga are very similar to those of many other Bantu languages, with a few variations.

These may be classified as first person (the speaker), second person (the one spoken to), and third person (the one spoken about). They are also classified by grammatical number, i.e., singular and plural. There is no distinction between subject and object.

Each pronoun has a corresponding concord or agreement morpheme.[ clarification needed ]

Personal Pronouns
1st sg.2nd sg.3rd sg.1st pl.2nd pl.3rd pl.
Agreement morphemendzi, ndzau, wau, wahi, hami, mava
Example sentencesMina ndzi vona huku. ("I see a chicken.")
Mina ndza yi vona huku. ("I see it—the chicken.")
Wena u vona huku. ("You see a chicken.")
Wena wa yi vona huku. ("You see it—the chicken.")
Yena u vona huku. ("He/she sees a chicken.")
Yena wa yi vona huku. ("He/she sees it—the chicken.")
Hina hi vona huku. ("We see a chicken.")
Hina ha yi vona huku. ("We see it—the chicken.")
N'wina mi vona huku. ("You see a chicken.")
N'wina ma yi vona huku. ("You see it—the chicken.")
Vona va vona huku. ("They see a chicken.")
Vona va yi vona huku. ("They see it—the chicken.")


The vocabulary of Xitsonga is essentially similar not only to most South African languages but also other Eastern Bantu languages, for example, Kiswahili. [8]


Khume (na) n'we / Khumen'weeleven
Khume (na) mbirhi / Khumembirhitwelve
Khume (na) nharhu / Khumenharhuthirteen
Makhume mambirhi / Makumembirhitwenty
Makhume manharhu / Makumenharhuthirty
Mune wa makhume / Makumemuneforty
Ntlhanu wa makhume / Makumentlhanufifty

Months of the year



Xitsonga, like many other African languages, have been influenced by various European colonial languages. Xitsonga includes words borrowed from English, Afrikaans, and Portuguese. Also, due to the assimilation of the Shangaan nation, Xitsonga has taken some words from Nguni languages.

Words borrowed from English

Words borrowed from Afrikaans

Words borrowed from other Nguni languages:

Writing system

Xitsonga Latin Alphabet

Xitsonga uses the Latin alphabet. However, certain sounds are spelled using a combination of letters, which either do not exist in Indo-European languages, or may be meant to distinguish the language somewhat.

An example of this is the letter "x" taken from Portuguese orthography, which is pronounced /ʃ/. Therefore, the following words, [ʃuʃa], [ʃikolo], [ʃilo], are written in Tsonga as -xuxa, xikolo, and xilo.

Other spelling differences include the letter "c", which is pronounced /t͡ʃ/. However, where the emphasis of a word is on the following vowel the letter is hardened by adding "h" this the Tsonga word -chava (fear)

A sound equivalent to the Welsh "ll" (/ɬ/) is written "hl" in Tsonga, e.g. -hlangana (meet), -hlasela (attack), -hleka (laugh)

A whistling sound common in the language is written "sw" or "sv" in Zimbabwean ChiShona. This sound actually belongs to the "x-sw" class within the language. E.g.:

Another whistling sound is spelled "dy" but has no English equivalent, the closest being the "dr" sound in the English word "drive"

Xitsonga has been standardised as a written language. However, there are many dialects within the language that may not pronounce words as written. For example, the Tsonga bible uses the word "byela" (tell), pronounced bwe-la, however a large group of speakers would say "dzvela" instead.

The Lord's Prayer as written in the Xitsonga Bible (Bibele)

Tata wa hina la nge matilweni,
vito ra wena a ri hlawuriwe;
a ku te ku fuma ka wena;
ku rhandza ka wena a ku endliwe misaveni;
tani hi loko ku endliwa matilweni;
u hi nyika namuntlha vuswa bya hina
bya siku rin'wana ni rin'wana;
u hi rivalela swidyoho swa hina,
tani hi loko na hina hi rivalela lava hi dyohelaka;
u nga hi yisi emiringweni
kambe u hi ponisa eka Lowo biha,
hikuva ku fuma, ni matimba, ni ku twala i swa wena
hi masiku ni masiku.

Xiyinhlanharhu xa Mipfawulo

The sintu writing system, Isibheqe Sohlamvu/Ditema tsa Dinoko , also known technically in Xitsonga as Xiyinhlanharhu xa Mipfawulo, [9] is used for all Xitsonga varieties. The class 7/8 noun pairs above are represented as follows:

[Si:lo] Xilo.jpg
[si:lo] Swilo.jpg
[Sik'o:lo] Xikolo.jpg
[sik'o:lo] Swikolo.jpg
[Sikw'embu] Xikwembu.jpg
[sikw'embu] Swikwembu.jpg


Like many other languages, Xitsonga has many proverbs; these appear in different classes. They appear in a group of animals, trees and people.

N'wana wa mfenhe a nga tsandziwi hi rhaviThe child of baboon does not fail a branchA wiseman's child can do anything.
U nga teki mali u bohela enengeni wa mpfuvuDo not tie money in the leg of hippopotamusDo not lend your money to people who do not pay back.
U nga dlayi nyoka u yi ndzuluta, ta micele ta ku vonaDo not kill a snake and swing it, the ones inside the holes are watching youDo not do unnecessary bad things to someone, other people are watching you.
Kuwa ro tshwuka ri na xivungu endzeni.A fig fruit which is pink, it has a worm inside.Most of very beautiful women they have bad habits.
N'wana wa nyoka i nyoka.The child of snake is a snake.A child of a bad person, might be a very bad person.
Ndlopfu a yi fi hi ribambu rin'weAn elephant does not die of one (broken) ribWhen in trouble, a man should try all efforts to find a solution.
Mbuti ya xihaha a yi tswaleli entlhambiniA secretive goat does not give birth in a midst.Keep a secret do not say it where there are many people
Matimba ya ngwenya i matiThe strength of crocodile is water.A man has power when he is supported by his people
N'hwarimbirhi yin'we yi ta tshwa nkangaIf one tries to do more than one thing at the same time, one might not prosper.
N'wana wo ka a nga rili u ta fela a dzobyeniA child who does not cry will die unnoticed at the back of his mother.If you do not raise your voice (in a form of a complaint), you will not be heard.
Mbuti yi dya laha yi nga bohiwa konaA goat eats where it is tied.A person must use properties of a place where he is working.
Ku tlula ka mhala ku letela n'wana wa le ndzeniThe way an impala jumps, it influences its unborn child.Whatever bad things a mother does, her daughter will also do.
I malebvu ya nghala.It is a lion's beard.A thing may not be as scary as it looks.
Nomu a wu taleriwi hi nambuA mouth can cross any river.A mouth can say all words of promises.
Mavoko ya munhu a ma mili nhova/byanyiGrass cannot grow on a human being's hands.You must work hard (in every possible way) to succeed.
Xandla famba, xandla vuya.Let the hand go and let the hand come back.A giving hand is a receiving hand.
Humba yi olele nkumaThe snail has collected ashesA person has died
Mbyana loko yi lava ku ku luma ya n'wayitela.A dog smiles when it intends to bite something.A person can do (or intend to do) bad things to you, while he is smiling.
Ku hiwa hi Thomo ku suka e palamendhe ya le tilweni.To be given by Thomo (king's name) from heavenly parliament.To be blessed by God.
Vana va munhu va tsemelana nhloko ya njiya.Siblings are sharing the head of locust.Siblings must share good things.
Mhunti yo tlulatlula Mangulwe u ta yi khoma.An antelope which is jumping around next to Mangulwe (dog's name), he will catch it.Any girl who has been seen by this boy, she will accept his proposal (used by a boy when he is in love with a girl).
Tolo a nga ha vuyi.Yesterday will not come back.Wishing to bring interesting old things of old days to nowadays.
Nghala yi vomba exihlahleni.A lion roars in the bush.A warrior is seen in a war.
Ku hundza muti ri xileTo pass a home during the dayTo be stupid
Tinghala timbirhi ta chavana.Two lions fear each other.Two powerful nations fear each other.
Timpfuvu timbirhi a ti tshami xidziveni xin'we.Two hippos cannot stay in the same deep water.Enemies cannot stay in the same place.
Vuhosi a byi peli nambu.Chiefdom does not cross the river.Chiefdom stays in the same family, cannot be passed to other families.
A ndzi ku hi laha ku nga na mpfula ku sala ndzhongo.I thought is where the rain has poured and left fertile soil.I thought it was good things.
I matutu vana va ntavasiIt is plenty.
Ku tshwa nomoTo have a burnt mouthReferring to someone who constantly lies, e.g. Jephrey Cuma u tshwe nomo.
N'wana u tseme mubyaA disobedient child
Ximitantsengele xi tshemba nkoloHe who swallows a large stone has confidence in the size of his throat.When you start something you must have power (courage) to complete it.
Mutlhontlhi wa tinyarhi ti vuya hi yenaThe one who challenges buffaloes they will chase him.He who provokes other people, will face the consequences.
Loko u tsundzuka mhelembe khandziya ensinyeniWhen you think of rhino, climb a tree.When you think of something, act immediately.
Ku ba ndlopfu hi xibakeleTo hit an elephant with a fistTo make a very slight impression.
Ku banana hi rhambu ra mfenheTo hit each other with a baboon's boneTo exchange gifts with relatives only.
Ku banana hi rhanga ro hisaTo hit each other with a hot 'pumpkin'To accuse each other.
U nga hlawuli nkuku wa mhangeleOne must not choose the male of the guinea-fowl (similar to "Don't count your chickens before they are hatched").This proverb is said to a young husband who might be tempted to prepare something for their babies before their birth, since you do not know if the baby is a male or female.
Tinhlanga ta le ndzhaku ti tiviwa hi mutlhaveri wa tona.The tattooing marks made on the back are known by the tattooer (not by the tattooed)You do not know what may happen when you have turned your back.
Xihlovo a xi dungiwi loko u heta ku nwa matiDo not close the well after having drunk.Do not mess up things after using them, you might need them tomorrow.
U nga sahi nsinya hi vuxika, u ta tshwa hi mumu hi malangaDo not cut the tree in winter, you will burn by sun in summer.Do not mess up things when you do not need them, you will suffer when you need them.
Mhunti yi biwa ya ha ri na mahikaAn antelope is killed while is sighingA problem must be solved immediately.
Xirhami xi vuyisa na n'wana evukatiniChillness causes a girl to come back to her parents' house from her husband's house.It is very cold.

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Xhosa language Nguni language of southern South Africa

Xhosa also isiXhosa as an endonym, is a Nguni language and 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, Western Cape, Gauteng and Northern Cape. It has 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.

Sotho or Sesotho 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.

Chewa language Bantu language of Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe

Chewa is a Bantu language spoken in much of Southern, Southeast and East Africa, namely the countries of Malawi and Zambia, where it is an official language, and Mozambique and Zimbabwe where it is a recognised minority language. The noun class prefix chi- is used for languages, so the language is usually called Chichewa and Chinyanja. In Malawi, the name was officially changed from Chinyanja to Chichewa in 1968 at the insistence of President Hastings Kamuzu Banda, and this is still the name most commonly used in Malawi today. In Zambia, the language is generally known as Nyanja or Cinyanja/Chinyanja '(language) of the lake'.

Tsonga people Bantu ethnic group in Africa

The Tsonga people are a Bantu ethnic group native mainly to Southern Mozambique and South Africa. They speak Xitsonga, a Southern Bantu language. A very small number of Tsonga people are also found in Zimbabwe and Northern Eswatini. The Tsonga people of South Africa share some history with the Tsonga people of Southern Mozambique, and have similar cultural practices; however they differ on the dialects spoken.

Much of Tamil grammar is extensively described in the oldest available grammar book for Tamil, the Tolkāppiyam. Modern Tamil writing is largely based on the 13th century grammar Naṉṉūl, which restated and clarified the rules of the Tolkāppiyam with some modifications.

Northern Ndebele, also called Ndebele, isiNdebele, Zimbabwean Ndebele or North Ndebele,. Associated with the term Matabele, is a Bantu language spoken by the Northern Ndebele people which belongs to the Nguni group of languages.

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 Eswatini 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.

The Chopi are an ethnic group of Mozambique. They have lived primarily in the Zavala region of southern Mozambique, in the Inhambane Province. They traditionally lived a life of subsistence agriculture, traditionally living a rural existence, although many were displaced or killed in the civil war that followed Mozambique's liberation from Portuguese colonial rule in 1975. In addition, drought forced many away from their homeland and into the nation's cities.

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.

This article presents a brief overview of the grammar of the Sesotho and provides links to more detailed articles.

Tswa (Xitswa) is a South-Eastern Bantu language in Southern Mozambique. Its closest relatives are Ronga and Tsonga, the three forming the Tswa–Ronga family of languages.

Ronga is a Bantu language of the Tswa–Ronga branch spoken just south of Maputo in Mozambique. It extends a little into South Africa. It has about 650,000 speakers in Mozambique and a further 90,000 in South Africa, with dialects including Konde, Putru and Kalanga.

The Tswa–Ronga languages are a group of closely related Southern Bantu languages spoken in Southern Africa chiefly in southern Mozambique, northeastern South Africa and southeastern Zimbabwe.

The Nukak language is a language of uncertain classification, perhaps part of the macrofamily Puinave-Maku. It is very closely related to Kakwa.

Ske is an endangered language of south-western Pentecost island in Vanuatu. Ske is an Oceanic language.

Valdezia is a sprawling rural settlement situated at the foothills of the Soutpansberg mountain range in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo Province, South Africa. It was formerly known as Albasini before Swiss Missionaries renamed it Valdezia in 1875. The village itself was formally established in 1820 by Tsonga refugees who were fleeing despotic rule from Soshangane. It is roughly 10 km east of Elim Hospital in the Hlanganani district in the former Gazankulu homeland, South Africa. It was the site of a Swiss mission station, and it was named after the Swiss canton of Vaud. Valdezia's population, according to the official census of 2011, currently stands at between 7,600 and 8,000 people. It is considered the birthplace of the written Tsonga language in South Africa.

Henri-Alexandre Junod

Henri-Alexandre Junod was a Swiss-born South African missionary, ethnographer, anthropologist, linguist and naturalist, stationed for much of his career at Shiluvane Mission Station outside Tzaneen in Limpopo Province. He received an early training in Protestant ministry at Neuchâtel, Basel and Berlin. He was one of the founding members of the Lemana Training College at Njhakanjhaka village near the Township of Waterval at Elim in 1906. Together with Reverend Creux of Valdezia Mission Station, he codified the language of the Tsonga people, which they called 'Thonga', but later renamed Xitsonga. Together with a group of Swiss Missionaries, such as Georges Liengme, he helped in the establishment of Elim Hospital in 1899.

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 for the siNtu or Southern Bantu languages, developed in the 2010s from antecedent ideographic traditions of the Southern African region. Its visual appearance is inspired by these, including the traditional litema arts style. It was developed between 2014 and 2016 by a group of South African linguists and software programmers with the goal of creating a denser writing system to avoid the slowness in reading caused by the word length and visual homogeneity of Southern Bantu languages written in the Roman alphabet.


  1. Tsonga at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  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. Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  4. Junod, Henry (1912, 1927), The Life of a South African Tribe: The Social Life, Neuchatel: Imprimerie Attinger Freres, p. 32–33
  5. Harries, P. 1987, The Roots of Ethnicity: Discourse and the Politics of Language Construction in South-East Africa, University of the Witwatersrand. p. 16
  6. Elephant Coast, (2009). History of the Thembe - Thonga, Retrieved from http://www.visitelephantcoast.co.za/index.php?history_thembe
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Baumbach, E. J. M. (1987). Analytical Tsonga Grammar. Pretoria: University of South Africa.
  8. DigitalTsonga, (2020). Some Common Xitsonga Words that are also Similar in Kiswahili, Retrieved from https://www.digitaltsonga.com/&page=blog/2020-12-14/Some_Common_Xitsonga_Words_that_are_also_Similar_in_Kiswahili
  9. "IsiBheqe". isibheqe.org. 23 August 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.

Further reading

Software and localisation