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|Native to||South Africa|
|Region||Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Free State|
|8.2 million (2020 March 08) |
11 million L2 speakers (2002) isiXhosa is one of the official languages in post democratic South Africa.
| Latin (Xhosa alphabet)|
Official language in
Proportion of the South African population that speaks Xhosa at home
Xhosa /, / (Xhosa pronunciation: [ˈǁʰɔsa] ), 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 (approximately tied with Yeyi), with one count finding that 10% of basic vocabulary items contained a click.
Xhosa is part of the branch of Nguni languages known as Zunda languages, which also include Zulu, Southern Ndebele and Northern Ndebele.Zunda languages effectively form a dialect continuum of variously mutually intelligible varieties.
Xhosa is, to some extent, mutually intelligible with Zulu and Northern Ndebele, and other Nguni languages to a lesser extent. Nguni languages are, in turn, part of the much larger group of Bantu languages.
Xhosa is the most widely distributed African language in South Africa, though the most widely spoken African language is Zulu. As of 2003 [update] approximately 5.3 million Xhosa-speakers, the majority, live in the Eastern Cape, followed by the Western Cape (approximately 2 million), Gauteng (671,045), the Free State (246,192), KwaZulu-Natal (219,826), North West (214,461), Mpumalanga (46,553), the Northern Cape (51,228), and Limpopo (14,225). There is a small but significant Xhosa community of about 200,000 in Zimbabwe. Also, a small community of Xhosa speakers (18,000) live in Quthing District, Lesotho.It is the second most common home language in South Africa as a whole.
Xhosa has several dialects. Maho (2009) lists Mpondo (Pondo), Xesibe, Bomvana, Gaika (Ngqika), Gcaleka, Thembu, Mpondomise, Ndlambe, and Hlubi.
Hlubi is the dialect in the former Ciskei; there is the more distinct Hlubi language further north, where Xhosa meets SeSotho.
Xhosa has an inventory of ten vowels: [a], [ɛ~e], [i], [ɔ~o] and [u] written a, e, i, o and u in order, all occurring in both long and short. The /i/ vowel will be long in the penultimate syllable and short in the last syllable.
Xhosa is a tonal language with two inherent phonemic tones: low and high. Tones are rarely marked in the written language, but they can be indicated a[à], á[á], â[áà], ä[àá]. Long vowels are phonemic but are usually not written except for â and ä, which are each sequences of two vowels with different tones that are realized as long vowels with contour tones (â high–low = falling, ä low–high = rising).
Xhosa is rich in uncommon consonants. Besides pulmonic egressive sounds, which are found in all spoken languages, it has 18 clicks (in comparison, Juǀ'hoan, spoken by roughly 10,000 people in Botswana and Namibia, has 48 clicks, and Taa, with roughly 4,000 speakers in Botswana, has 83 click sounds as well as the largest consonant inventory of any known language). Also, Xhosa has ejectives and an implosive. Although 15 of the clicks also occur in Zulu, they are used less frequently than in Xhosa.
The first six are dental clicks (represented by the letter "c"), made with the tongue on the back of the teeth, and they are similar to the sound represented in English by "tut-tut" or "tsk-tsk" to reprimand someone. The next six are lateral (represented by the letter "x"), made by the tongue at the sides of the mouth, and they are similar to the sound used to call horses. The last six are alveolar (represented by the letter "q"), made with the tip of the tongue at the roof of the mouth, and they sound somewhat like a cork pulled from a bottle.
The following table lists the consonant phonemes of the language, with the pronunciation in IPA on the left and the orthography on the right:
|nasal||[ ŋǀ ]nc||[ ŋǁ ]nx||[ ŋǃ ]nq|
|glottalised nasal||[ ŋǀˀ ]nkc||[ ŋǁˀ ]nkx||[ ŋǃˀ ]nkq|
|slack voice||[d̥zʱ]dz 3||[d̥ʒʱ]j|
|slack voice||[v̤]v||[z̤]z||[ɮ̈]dl||[ʒ̈]zh 2||[ɣ̈]gr||[ɦ]hh|
|slack voice||[m̤]mh||[n̤]nh||[n̠̈ʲ]nyh||[ŋ̈]ngh 4|
|Trill||fully voiced||[r]r 1|
|breathy voiced||[r̤]r 1|
In addition to the ejective affricate [tʃʼ], the spelling tsh may also be used for either of the aspirated affricates [tsʰ] and [tʃʰ].
The breathy voiced glottal fricative [ɦ] is sometimes spelled h.
The ejectives tend to be ejective only in careful pronunciation or in salient positions and, even then, only for some speakers. Otherwise, they tend to be tenuis (plain) stops. Similarly, the tenuis (plain) clicks are often glottalised, with a long voice onset time, but that is uncommon.
The murmured clicks, plosives and affricates are only partially voiced, with the following vowel murmured for some speakers. That is, da may be pronounced [dʱa̤] (or, equivalently, [d̥a̤]). They are better described as slack voiced than as breathy voiced. They are truly voiced only after nasals, but the oral occlusion is then very short in stops, and it usually does not occur at all in clicks. Therefore, the absolute duration of voicing is the same as in tenuis stops. (They may also be voiced between vowels in some speaking styles.) The more notable characteristic is their depressor effect on the tone of the syllable.
When consonants are prenasalised, their pronunciation and spelling may change. The murmur no longer shifts to the following vowel. Fricatives become affricated and, if voiceless, they become ejectives as well, at least with some speakers: mf is pronounced [ɱp̪fʼ], ndl is pronounced [ndɮ], n+hl becomes ntl[ntɬʼ], n+z becomes ndz[ndz], etc. The orthographic b in mb is the voiced plosive [mb]. Prenasalisation occurs in several contexts, including on roots with the class 9 prefix /iN-/, for example on an adjective which is feature-matching its noun:
/iN- + ɬɛ/ → [intɬɛ] "beautiful" (of a class 9 word like inja "dog")
When aspirated clicks (ch, xh, qh) are prenasalised, the silent letter k is added (nkc, nkx, nkq) to prevent confusion with the nasal clicks nc, nx, nq, and are actually distinct sounds. The prenasalized versions have a very short voicing at the onset which then releases in an ejective, like the prenasalized affricates, while the phonemically nasal clicks have a very long voicing through the consonant. When plain voiceless clicks (c, x, q) are prenasalized, they become slack voiced nasal (ngc, ngx, ngq).
|Phoneme||Prenasalised||Examples (roots with class 10 /iiN-/ prefix)||Rule|
|/pʰ/, /tʰ/, /c̟ʰ/, /kʰ/||/mp/, /nt/, /ɲc̟/, /ŋk/||Aspiration is lost on obstruents.|
|/ǀ/, /ǁ/, /ǃ/||/ŋǀʱ/, /ŋǁʱ/, /ŋǃʱ/||Voiced clicks become slack voiced nasal.|
|/kǀʰ/, /kǁʰ/, /kǃʰ/||/ŋǀʼ/, /ŋǁ'/, /ŋǃ'/||Aspirated clicks become prenasalized ejected clicks.|
|/ɓ/||/mb̥ʱ/||Implosive becomes slack voiced.|
|/f/, /s/, /ʃ/, /ɬ/, /x/|
/v/, /z/, /ɮ/, /ɣ/
|[ɱp̪f], /nts/, /ntʃ/, /ntɬ/, /ŋkx/|
[ɱb̪̊vʱ], [nd̥zʱ], [nd̥ɮʱ], [ŋɡ̊ɣʱ]?
|Fricatives become affricates. Only phonemic, and thus reflected orthographically, for /nts/, /ntʃ/, /ntɬ/ and /ŋkx/.|
|/m/, /n/, /ɲ̟/, /ŋ/|
/ǀ̃/, /ǁ̃/, /ǃ̃/
|/m/, /n/, /ɲ̟/, /ŋ/|
/ǀ̃/, /ǁ̃/, /ǃ̃/
|No change when the following consonant is itself a nasal.|
Palatalisation is a change that affects labial consonants whenever they are immediately followed by /j/. While palatalisation occurred historically, it is still productive, as is shown by palatalization before the passive suffix /-w/.
Moreover, Xhosa does not generally tolerate sequences of a labial consonant plus /w/. Whenever /w/ follows a labial consonant, it changes to /j/, which then triggers palatalisation of the consonant.
In keeping with many other Southern Bantu languages, Xhosa is an agglutinative language, with an array of prefixes and suffixes that are attached to root words. As in other Bantu languages, nouns in Xhosa are classified into morphological classes, or genders (15 in Xhosa), with different prefixes for both singular and plural. Various parts of speech that qualify a noun must agree with the noun according to its gender. Agreements usually reflect part of the original class with which the word agrees. The word order is subject–verb–object, like in English.
The verb is modified by affixes to mark subject, object, tense, aspect and mood. The various parts of the sentence must agree in both class and number.
The Xhosa noun consists of two essential parts, the prefix and the stem. Using the prefixes, nouns can be grouped into noun classes, which are numbered consecutively, to ease comparison with other Bantu languages.
The following table gives an overview of Xhosa noun classes, arranged according to singular-plural pairs.
|5/6||i-, ili-1||ama-, ame-|
|11/10||u-, ulu-1, ulw-, ul-||iiN-3, iziN-4|
|14||ubu-, ub-, uty-|
1 Before monosyllabic stems, e.g. iliso (eye), uluhlu (list).
2is- and iz- replace isi- and izi- respectively before stems beginning with a vowel, e.g. isandla/izandla (hand/hands).
3 The placeholder N in the prefixes iN- and iiN- for m, n or no letter at all.
4 Before monosyllabic stems in some words.
Verbs use the following prefixes for the subject and object:
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.(August 2019)
Xhosa-speaking people have inhabited coastal regions of southeastern Africa since before the 16th century. They refer to themselves as the amaXhosa and their language as Xhosa. AmaXhosa migrated to the east coast of Africa and came across Khoisan-speaking people; "as a result of this contact, the Xhosa people borrowed some Khoisan words along with their pronunciation, for instance, the click sounds of the Khoisan languages".The Bantu ancestor of Xhosa did not have clicks, which attests to a strong historical contact with a San language that did. An estimated 15% of Xhosa vocabulary is of San origin. In the modern period, it has also borrowed, slightly, from both Afrikaans and English.
John Bennie was a Scottish Presbyterian missionary and early Xhosa linguist. Bennie, along with John Ross (another missionary), set up a printing press in the Tyhume Valley and the first printed works in Xhosa came out in 1823 from the Lovedale Press in the Alice region of the Eastern Cape. But, as with any language, Xhosa had a rich history of oral traditions from which the society taught, informed, and entertained one another. The first Bible translation was in 1859, produced in part by Henry Hare Dugmore.
The role of indigenous languages in South Africa is complex and ambiguous. Their use in education has been governed by legislation, beginning with the Bantu Education Act, 1953.
At present, Xhosa is used as the main language of instruction in many primary schools and some secondary schools, but is largely replaced by English after the early primary grades, even in schools mainly serving Xhosa-speaking communities. The language is also studied as a subject.
The language of instruction at universities in South Africa is English or Afrikaans, and Xhosa is taught as a subject, both for native and for non-native speakers.
Literary works, including prose and poetry, are available in Xhosa, as are newspapers and magazines. The South African Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts in Xhosa on both radio (on Umhlobo Wenene FM) and television, and films, plays and music are also produced in the language. The best-known performer of Xhosa songs outside South Africa was Miriam Makeba, whose Click Song #1 (Xhosa Qongqothwane) and "Click Song #2" (Baxabene Ooxam) are known for their large number of click sounds.
In 1996 [update] , the literacy rate for first-language Xhosa speakers was estimated at 50%.
Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika is part of the national anthem of South Africa, national anthem of Tanzania and Zambia, and the former anthem of Zimbabwe and Namibia. It is a Methodist hymn written in Xhosa by Enoch Sontonga in 1897. The original stanza was:
Additional stanzas were written later by Sontonga and other writers, with the original verse translated into Sotho and Afrikaans, as well as English.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe films Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther , the language spoken in the fictional African nation of Wakanda is Xhosa. This came about because South African actor John Kani, a native of the Eastern Cape province who plays Wakandan King T'Chaka, is Xhosa and suggested that the directors of Civil War incorporate dialogue in the language. For Black Panther, director Ryan Coogler "wanted to make it a priority to use Xhosa as much as possible" in the script, and provided dialect coaches for the film's actors.
Breathy voice is a phonation in which the vocal folds vibrate, as they do in normal (modal) voicing, but are adjusted to let more air escape which produces a sighing-like sound. A simple breathy phonation,, can sometimes be heard as an allophone of English between vowels, such as in the word behind, for some speakers.
Click consonants, or clicks, are speech sounds that occur as consonants in many languages of Southern Africa and in three languages of East Africa. Examples familiar to English-speakers are the Tut-tut or Tsk! Tsk! used to express disapproval or pity, the tchick! used to spur on a horse, and the clip-clop! sound children make with their tongue to imitate a horse trotting.
Zulu, or isiZulu, is a Southern Bantu language of the Nguni branch spoken in Southern Africa. It is the language of the Zulu people, with about 12 million native speakers, who primarily inhabit the province of KwaZulu-Natal of South Africa. Zulu is the most widely spoken home language in South Africa, and it is understood by over 50% of its population. It became one of South Africa's 11 official languages in 1994.
Southern Ndebele, also known as Transvaal Ndebele or South Ndebele, is an African language belonging to the Nguni group of Bantu languages, spoken by the Ndebele people of South Africa.
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.
The Swazi, Swati or siSwati language is a Bantu language of the Nguni group spoken in Eswatini and South Africa by the Swazi people. The number of speakers is estimated to be in the region of 2.4 million. The language is taught in Eswatini and some South African schools in Mpumalanga, particularly former KaNgwane areas. Swazi is an official language of Eswatini, and is also one of the eleven official languages of South Africa.
The Nguni languages are group of Bantu languages spoken in Southern Africa by the Nguni people. Nguni languages mainly include Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Swati, Hlubi, Phuthi, Bhaca, Lala, Nhlangwini, Southern Transvaal Ndebele, and Sumayela Ndebele. The appellation 'Nguni' is an older "variant" term. It is consistent with the use of the alphabet 'u' in all the Nguni languages spoken by the Nguni people of South Africa.
Dentalclicks are a family of click consonants found, as constituents of words, only in Africa and in the Damin ritual jargon of Australia.
Sandawe is a language spoken by about 60,000 Sandawe people in the Dodoma region of Tanzania. Sandawe's use of click consonants, a rare feature shared with only two other language of East Africa – Hadza and Dahalo, had been the basis of its classification as a member of the defunct Khoisan family of Southern Africa since Albert Drexel in the 1920s. Recent investigations however suggest that Sandawe may be related to the Khoe family regardless of the validity of Khoisan as a whole. A discussion of Sandawe's linguistic classification can be found in Sands (1998).
Hadza is a language isolate spoken along the shores of Lake Eyasi in Tanzania by around 1,000 Hadza people, the last full-time hunter-gatherers in Africa. Despite the small number of speakers, language use is vigorous, with most children learning it. In the late 20th century Hadza was included in a proposed Khoisan language family, largely on the basis of its use of clicks, but this classification is no longer accepted.
Northern Ndebele, also called Ndebele, amaNdebele, Zimbabwean Ndebele or North Ndebele, and formerly known as Matabele, is an African language belonging to the Nguni group of Bantu languages, spoken by the Northern Ndebele people, or Matabele, of Zimbabwe.
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.
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 Nguni people are a group of Bantu peoples who primarily speak Nguni languages and currently reside predominantly in Southern Africa. The Nguni people are Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi. They predominantly live in South Africa. Swazi people live in both South Africa and Eswatini, while Ndebele people live in both South Africa and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, the historic Nguni kingdoms of the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi are on the present day provinces of the KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. The most notable of these kingdoms is the Zulu Kingdom, which was ruled by Shaka, a powerful warrior king whose conquest took place in the early nineteenth century. In Zimbabwe the Ndebele people live primarily in the provinces of Matebeleland and Midlands.
Yeyi is a Bantu language spoken by many of the approximately 50,000 Yeyi people along the Okavango River in Namibia and Botswana. Yeyi, influenced by Juu languages, is one of several Bantu languages along the Okavango with clicks. Indeed, it has the largest known inventory of clicks of any Bantu language, with dental, alveolar, palatal, and lateral articulations. Though most of its older speakers prefer Yeyi in normal conversation, it is being gradually phased out in Botswana by a popular move towards Tswana, with Yeyi only being learned by children in a few villages. Yeyi speakers in the Caprivi Strip of north-eastern Namibia, however, retain Yeyi in villages, but may also speak the regional lingua franca, Lozi.
Nasal clicks are click consonants pronounced with nasal airflow. All click types have nasal variants, and these are attested in four or five phonations: voiced, voiceless, aspirated, murmured, and—in the analysis of Miller (2011)—glottalized.
Glottalized clicks are click consonants pronounced with closure of the glottis. All click types have glottalized variants. They are very common: All of the Khoisan languages of Africa have them, as does Dahalo and the Bantu languages Yeyi and Xhosa. They are produced by making a glottal stop, which stops the flow of air, and then using the front of the tongue to make the click sound in the middle of the glottal stop.
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.
|Xhosa edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Look up Xhosa in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Xhosa phrasebook .|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Xhosa language .|