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Sotho language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Native to Lesotho, South Africa

Ethnicity Basotho
Native speakers
6.0 million (20012006)

Southern Bantoid
Southern Bantu
Writing system
Latin (Sotho alphabet)
Sotho Braille
Signed Sotho
Official status
language in
South Africa
Regulated by Pan South African Language Board
Language codes
ISO 639-1 st
ISO 639-2 sot
ISO 639-3 sot
Guthrie code

Linguasphere 99-AUT-ee incl. varieties 99-
AUT-eea to 99-AUT-eee
The Sotho Language
Person Mosotho
People Basotho
Language Sesotho
Country Lesotho

Parts of speech
The Sotho /sutu/
language, also known asSesotho, Southern Sotho,
or SouthernSesotho,
is a Bantu language spoken primarily in South Africa, where it is one of
the11 official languages, and in Lesotho, where it is the national language. It is an agglutinative
language which uses numerous affixes and derivational and inflexional rules to buildcomplete
1 Classification
2 Dialects
3 Geographic distribution
o 3.1 Official status
4 Derived languages
5 Phonology
6 Grammar
7 See also
8 Notes
9 References
10 External links
o 10.1 Software
Sotho is a Southern Bantu language, belonging to the NigerCongo language family within
theSotho languages branch of Zone S (S.30). It is most closely related to other major languages
in the SothoTswana language group: Tswana(Setswana), the Northern Sotho languages
(Sesotho sa Leboa), Kgalagari(SheKgalagari) and Lozi (Silozi). Sesotho is, and has always
been, the name of the language in the language itself, and this term has come into wider use in
English since the 1980s, especially in South African Englishand in Lesotho. Sesotho is
theautoglottonym or name of the language used by its native speakers as defined by the United
Nations. Sotho is theheteroglottonym. It is also sometimes referred to as Southern Sotho,
principally to distinguish it from Northern Sotho.
The Sotho languages are in turn closely related to other Southern Bantu language groups,
including the Vena, Tsonga, Tonga, andNguni languages, and possibly also the Makua
languages ofTanzania and Mozambique

A Sotho woman holding up a sign protesting violence against women, written in her native Sotho language, at
a National Women's Day protest at the National University of Lesotho. The sign translates as "if you do not listen to
women, we will lose patience with you."
Except for faint lexical variation within Lesotho, and except for marked lexical variation between
the Lesotho/Free State variety, and that of the large urban townships to the north (e.g. Soweto)
due to heavy borrowing from neighbouring languages, there is no discernible dialect variation in
this language.
However, one point which seems to often confuse authors who attempt to study the dialectology
of Sotho is the term Basotho, which can variously mean "SothoTswana speakers," "Sotho and
Northern Sotho speakers," "Sotho speakers," and "residents of Lesotho." The Nguni
language Phuthi has been heavily influenced by Sotho; its speakers have mixed Nguni and
SothoTswana ancestry. It seems that it is sometimes treated erroneously as a dialect of Sotho
called "Sephuthi." However, Phuthi is mutually unintelligible with standard Sotho, 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 Sotho is considered patronising, in addition to
being linguistically inaccurate, and in part serves a national myth that all citizens of Lesotho have
Sotho as their mother tongue.
Additionally, due to being derived from a language or dialect very closely related to modern
the Zambian SothoTswana language Lozi is also sometimes cited as a modern dialect
of Sotho named Serotse or Sekololo.
The oral history of the Sotho and Northern Sotho peoples (as contained in their diboko) 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 SothoTswana 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), andBasia (by Mosia). These
were the first peoples to be called "Sotho", 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 oft-repeated story is that when the modern Sotho 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 Sotho. The inclusion
of Setlokwa in this scenario is confusing, as the modern language named "Setlokwa" is a
Northern Sotho language spoken by descendants of the same Batlokwa whose attack on the
young chief Moshoeshoe's settlement during Difaqane (lead by the famous widowMmanthatisi)
caused them to migrate to present day Lesotho. On the other hand, Doke & Mofokeng claims
that the tendency of many Sotho speakers to say e.g. ke ronngwe

e instead of ke
romilwe umile when forming the perfect of the passive of verbs ending in -ma m (as well
as forming their perfects with -mme m me instead of -mile[mile]) is "a relic of the extinct Tlokwa
Geographic distribution[edit]

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 /km
13 /km
310 /km
1030 /km
30100 /km
100300 /km
3001000 /km
10003000 /km
>3000 /km
According to 2001 census data, there were almost four million first language Sotho speakers
recorded in South Africa approximately eight per cent of the population. Sotho 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, unfortunately, to record
the at least five million further South Africans for whom Sotho is a second or third language.
Such speakers are found in all major residential areas of
greater Johannesburg, Sowetoand Tshwane, where multilingualism and polylectalism are very
[citation needed]

Official status[edit]
Sotho is one of the eleven official languages of South Africa, and one of the two official
languages ofLesotho.
Derived languages[edit]
Sotho 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 Sotho or Zulu). It is a part
of the youth culture in most Southern Gauteng "townships" and is the primary language used
in Kwaito music.
Main article: Sesotho phonology
The sound system of Sotho is unusual in many respects. It has ejective consonants, click
consonants, a uvular trill, a relatively large number ofaffricate 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.
Main article: Sesotho grammar
The most striking properties of Sotho 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 notgrammatically
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[edit]
Sotho calendar
Sotho people
South African Translators' Association
1. Jump up^ Sotho at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
2. Jump up^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
3. Jump up^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student's Handbook, Edinburgh
4. Jump up^ Historically also Suto, or Suthu, Souto, Sisutho, Sutu, or Sesutu, according to the
pronunciation of the name.
5. Jump up^ To the extent that it even has several words which resemble Sotho words with clicks:
ku kala to begin (Sotho ho qala hl)
ku kabana to quarrel (Sotho ho qabana hbn)
One could just as easily say that these words were imported from Nguni languages
(ukuqalaand ukuxabana, which is where the Sotho versions come from), and the language
does also contain words resembling click words from Nguni but not from Sotho (such as ku
kabanga to think, c.f. Zulu ukucabanga).
6. Jump up^ 75 if you include the labialized consonants.
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
Doke, C. M., and Mofokeng, S. M. 1974. Textbook of Southern Sotho Grammar. Cape Town: Longman
Southern Africa, 3rd. impression. ISBN 0-582-61700-6.
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.
Tiu, W. M. 2001. Basotho family odes (Diboko) and oral tradition. M.A. thesis. University of South Africa