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Sotho () or Sesotho () is a Southern Bantu language of the
Sotho-Tswana The Sotho-Tswana peoples are a meta-ethnicity of southern Africa and live predominantly in Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho. The group mainly consists of four clasters; Sotho people, Southern Sotho (Sotho), Pedi people, Northern Sotho (wh ...
(S.30) group, spoken primarily by the
Basotho The Sotho people, or Basotho , are a Bantu Bantu may refer to: *Bantu languages, constitute the largest sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages *Bantu peoples, over 400 peoples of Africa speaking a Bantu language *Afro-textured hair#Styl ...
in
Lesotho Lesotho ( , ), officially the Kingdom of Lesotho ( st, Naha ea Lesotho), is an enclaved country surrounded entirely by South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. Wi ...

Lesotho
, where it is the
national National may refer to: Common uses * Nation A nation is a community A community is a social unitThe term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the location, size, or scale of a research target. "Level of analysis ...
and
official language An official language is a language given a special status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically the term "official language" does not refer to the language used by a people or country, but by its government (e.g. judiciar ...

official language
;
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most populous nation and covers an area of . South Africa has three capital citie ...

South Africa
, where it is one of the 11 official languages; and in
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe (), officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individ ...

Zimbabwe
where it is one of 16 official languages. Like all
Bantu languages The Bantu languages (English: , Proto-Bantu: *bantʊ̀) are a large family of languages In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or o ...
, Sesotho is an
agglutinative language An agglutinative language is a type of synthetic language A synthetic language uses inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study ...
, which uses numerous
affixes In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic b ...
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 The Sotho-Tswana peoples are a meta-ethnicity of southern Africa and live predominantly in Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho. The group mainly consists of four clasters; Sotho people, Southern Sotho (Sotho), Pedi people, Northern Sotho (wh ...
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. "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 Northern Sotho, or as an endonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. ...
group is geographical, and includes a number of dialects also closely related to Sotho-Lozi.
Tswana Tswana may refer to: * Tswana people The Tswana ( tn, Batswana, singular ''Motswana'') are a Bantu-speaking ethnic group who are native to Southern Africa Southern Africa is the south South is one of the cardinal directions or comp ...
is also known as "Western Sesotho". The Sotho-Tswana group is in turn closely related to the other
Southern Bantu The Southern Bantu languages are a large group of Bantu languages, largely validated in Janson (1991/92).Tore Janson (1991-92) "Southern Bantu and Makua", ''Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika'' (''SUGIA'') Vol. 12/13: 63-106, Rüdiger Köppe Verlag ...
languages, including the
Venda Venda () was a Bantustan A Bantustan (also known as Bantu peoples, Bantu homeland, Black people, black homeland, Khoisan, black state or simply homeland; ) was a territory that the National Party (South Africa), National Party administr ...
,
Tsonga Tsonga may refer to: * Tsonga language, a Bantu language spoken in southern Africa * Tsonga people, a large group of people living mainly in southern Mozambique and South Africa. * Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (born 1985), French tennis player See also

,
Tonga Tonga (, ), officially named the Kingdom of Tonga ( to, Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga), is a Polynesia Polynesia (, ; from grc, πολύς "many" and grc, νῆσος "island") ( to, Faka-Polinisia; mi, Porinihia; haw, Polenekia; ...
, Lozi which is native to
Zambia Zambia (), officially the Republic of Zambia ( Bemba:'' Icalo ca Zambia''; Tonga Tonga (, ), officially named the Kingdom of Tonga ( to, Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga), is a Polynesia Polynesia (, ; from grc, πολύς "many" ...

Zambia
and the other surrounding Southern African countries and
Nguni languages The Nguni languages are a group of Bantu languages The Bantu languages (English: , Proto-Bantu: *bantʊ̀) are a large family of languages In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguin ...
, and possibly also the Makua (zone P) languages of
Tanzania Tanzania (; ), officially the United Republic of Tanzania ( sw, Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania), is a country in East Africa East Africa or Eastern Africa is the eastern subregion of the Africa Africa is the world's second-larges ...

Tanzania
and
Mozambique Mozambique (), officially the Republic of Mozambique ( pt, Moçambique or , ; ny, Mozambiki; sw, Msumbiji; ts, Muzambhiki), is a country located in Southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third-lar ...

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 The Sotho people, or Basotho , are a Bantu Bantu may refer to: *Bantu languages, constitute the largest sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages *Bantu peoples, over 400 peoples of Africa speaking a Bantu language *Afro-textured hair#Styl ...
. Use of ''Sesotho'' rather than ''Sotho'' for the language in English has seen increasing use since the 1980s, especially in
South African English South African English (SAfrE, SAfrEng, SAE, en-ZA) is the set of English language dialects native to South Africans. History British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the U ...
and in Lesotho.


Dialects

Except for faint lexical variation within Lesotho, and for marked lexical variation between the Lesotho/
Free State #REDIRECT Free state The Free State ( af, Vrystaat; st, Freistata; xh, iFreyistata; tn, Foreistata; zu, iFuleyisitata; before 1995, the Orange Free State) is a Provinces of South Africa, province of South Africa. Its capital is Bloemfontein, ...
variety and that of the large urban townships to the north (such as
Soweto Soweto () is a township A township is a kind of human settlement or administrative subdivision, with its meaning varying in different countries. While the term is occasionally associated with an urban area, this tends to be an exception t ...

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 The Sotho people, or Basotho , are a Bantu Bantu may refer to: *Bantu languages, constitute the largest sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages *Bantu peoples, over 400 peoples of Africa speaking a Bantu language *Afro-textured hair#Styl ...

Basotho
'', which can variously mean "Sotho-Tswana peoples, Sotho–Tswana speakers," "Southern Sotho and Northern Sotho people, Northern Sotho speakers," "Sesotho speakers," and "residents of Lesotho." The Nguni languages, Nguni language Phuthi 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, 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, the
Zambia Zambia (), officially the Republic of Zambia ( Bemba:'' Icalo ca Zambia''; Tonga Tonga (, ), officially named the Kingdom of Tonga ( to, Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga), is a Polynesia Polynesia (, ; from grc, πολύς "many" ...

Zambia
n 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 diboko, 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 people (Zimbabwe), 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. 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 Difaqane, 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'' instead of ''ke romilwe'' when forming the perfect of the passive of verbs ending in ''-ma'' (as well as forming their perfects with ''-mme'' instead of ''-mile'' ) is "a relic of the extinct Tlokwa dialect".


Geographic distribution

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 #REDIRECT Free state The Free State ( af, Vrystaat; st, Freistata; xh, iFreyistata; tn, Foreistata; zu, iFuleyisitata; before 1995, the Orange Free State) is a Provinces of South Africa, province of South Africa. Its capital is Bloemfontein, ...
and Gauteng. Sesotho is also the main language spoken by the people of
Lesotho Lesotho ( , ), officially the Kingdom of Lesotho ( st, Naha ea Lesotho), is an enclaved country surrounded entirely by South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. Wi ...

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 municipality (South Africa), Metropolitan Municipalities – such as Johannesburg, and Tshwane – where multilingualism and polylectalism are very high.


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 language, Zulu). It is a part of the youth culture in most Southern Gauteng "township (South Africa), townships" and is the primary language used in kwaito, 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 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. # is an allophone of , occurring only before the close vowels ( and ). Dialectical evidence shows that in the Sotho–Tswana languages was originally pronounced as a retroflex flap before the two close vowels. Sesotho makes a three-way distinction between lightly ejective consonant, ejective, aspiration (phonetics), aspirated and voiced consonant, voiced stop consonant, stops in several place of articulation, 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 languages, Bantu language, are its Sesotho nouns, noun gender and Sesotho concords, concord systems. The grammatical gender system does not encode sex gender, and indeed, Bantu languages in general are not Grammatical marker, grammatically marked for gender. Another well-known property of the Bantu languages is their agglutinative language, agglutinative morphology. Additionally, they tend to lack any grammatical case systems, indicating noun roles almost exclusively through word order.


See also

* Sotho calendar *
Sotho people The Sotho people, or Basotho , are a Bantu Bantu may refer to: *Bantu languages, constitute the largest sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages *Bantu peoples, over 400 peoples of Africa speaking a Bantu language *Afro-textured hair#Styl ...
* South African Translators' Association


Notes


References


Sources

* Batibo, H. M., Moilwa, J., and Mosaka N. 1997. ''The historical implications of the linguistic relationship between Makua and Sotho languages''. In PULA Journal of African Studies, vol. 11, no. 1 * Clement Martyn Doke, Doke, C. M., and Mofokeng, S. M. 1974. ''Textbook of Southern Sotho Grammar''. Cape Town: Longman Southern Africa, 3rd. impression. . * Ntaoleng, B. S. 2004. ''Sociolinguistic variation in spoken and written Sesotho: A case study of speech varieties in Qwaqwa''. M.A. thesis. University of South Africa. * Tšiu, W. M. 2001. ''Basotho family odes (Diboko) and oral tradition''. M.A. thesis. University of South Africa


External links


Sesotho Online
A gentle introduction to the Sesotho language and culture.
Weblog on Sesotho

Translate.org.za
Project translating Free and Open Source Software into South African languages, including Sesotho.
PanAfrican L10n page on Sesotho
Information on the language and localisation.
Sesotho language tutorial
A beginner's language text, created for the US Peace Corps.
the SeSotho book
Another book developed by a Peace Corps volunteer


Software


Spell checker for OpenOffice.org and MozillaOpenOffice.orgMozilla Firefox web-browser
an
Mozilla Thunderbird email program
in Sesotho. {{DEFAULTSORT:Sotho language Sotho language, Vowel-harmony languages Subject–verb–object languages