digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















Pronunciation [sɪ̀sʊ́tʰʊ̀]
Native to Lesotho, South Africa
Ethnicity Basotho
Native speakers
5.6 million  (2001–2011)[1]
7.9 million L2 speakers in South Africa (2002)[2]
Latin (Sotho alphabet)
Sotho Braille
Signed Sotho
Official status
Official 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
Glottolog sout2807[3]
Linguasphere 99-AUT-ee incl. varieties 99-AUT-eea to 99-AUT-eee
The Sotho Language
Person Mosotho
People Basotho
Language Sesotho
Country Lesotho

The Sotho /ˈst/[5] language, also known as Sesotho, Southern Sotho, or Southern Sesotho,[6] is a Bantu language spoken primarily in South Africa, where it is one of the 11 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 build complete words.


Sotho is a Southern Bantu language, belonging to the Niger–Congo language family within the Sotho languages branch of Zone S (S.30). It is most closely related to other major languages in the Sotho–Tswana 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 English and in Lesotho. Sesotho is the autoglottonym or name of the language used by its native speakers as defined by the United Nations. Sotho is the heteroglottonym. 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 Venḓa, Tsonga, Tonga, and Nguni languages, and possibly also the Makua languages of Tanzania and Mozambique


A Mosotho 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 "Sotho–Tswana 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 Sotho–Tswana 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,[7] 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 Sotho,[8] the Zambian Sotho–Tswana 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 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 "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 widow Mmanthatisi) 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 [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[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.

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, Soweto and Tshwane, where multilingualism and polylectalism are very high.[citation needed]

Official status[edit]

Sotho is one of the eleven official languages of South Africa, and one of the two official languages of Lesotho.

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 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[9] 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 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[edit]


  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. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Southern Sotho". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  5. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student's Handbook, Edinburgh
  6. ^ Historically also Suto, or Suthu, Souto, Sisutho, Sutu, or Sesutu, according to the pronunciation of the name.
  7. ^ by whom?
  8. ^ To the extent that it even has several words which resemble Sotho words with clicks:
    ku kala to begin (Sotho ho qala [hʊǃɑlɑ])
    ku kabana to quarrel (Sotho ho qabana [hʊǃɑbɑnɑ])
    One could just as easily say that these words were imported from Nguni languages (ukuqala and 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).
  9. ^ 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.
  • Tšiu, W. M. 2001. Basotho family odes (Diboko) and oral tradition. M.A. thesis. University of South Africa

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sotho_language — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
4287 videos foundNext > 


sesotho,learn sesotho language simple way by mrpri$e

on tv most people use sesotho language also in music and movie and so on, so i thought will be a right thing for me to contribute by helping those who want to learn sesotho, and i hope you...

The Jesus Film - Sotho, Southern / Sesotho / Sisutho / Souto / Suthu / Suto Language

The Story of the Life and Times of Jesus Christ (Son of God). According to the Gospel of Luke. (Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana) Sotho, Southern / Sesotho / Sisutho / Souto / Suthu...

Basic Sesotho phrases

In the Kingdom of Lesotho the language spoken is Sesotho. In this video you will find a handful of useful phrases.

Learning Corner: Sesotho Basic 1 Lesson 1

This is a video that teaches the basics in Sesotho - one of the South African official languages. You will learn how to write, speak and associate the words featured.

Bible Southern Sotho Language / Bibele

http://www.bibleinmylanguage.com/Bibele-1909-Bible-in-Southern-Sotho-Language-Black-Hard-Cover-Hardcover_p_867.html Bibele 1909 / Bible in Southern Sotho Language / Black Hard Cover ...

Good News NORTHERN SOTHO (sePêdi) People/Language Movie Trailer

See http://wlmov.com/program/c17871 for the full Good News NORTHERN SOTHO Movie .......... This is: Good News NORTHERN SOTHO (sePêdi) People/Language Movie Trailer c17871 [c17871t] ...

Bible Southern Sotho Language / BIBELE HALALELANG (Mongolo wa Rephavoliki)

http://www.bibleinmylanguage.com/BIBELE-HALALELANG-Mongolo-wa-Rephavoliki-BIBLE-Southern-Sotho-Language-_p_451.html BIBELE HALALELANG (Mongolo wa Rephavoliki) / BIBLE ...

Sotho Worship Songs

The Sotho language, is a Bantu language spoken primarily in South Africa, where it is one of the 11 official languages, and in Lesotho, where it is the national language.

The Story of Jesus for Children - Sotho, Northern / Pedi / Sepedi / Transvaal Sotho Language

The Story of Jesus Christ (Son of God) for Children. According to the Gospel of Luke. (South Africa) Sotho, Northern / Pedi / Sepedi / Transvaal Sotho Language. God Bless You All.

4287 videos foundNext > 

48 news items

The Economist
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 07:37:30 -0700

Poor residents facing eviction by private developers turned their anger on nearby Maboneng (“Place of Light” in the Sotho language), an area that has been redeveloped into loft apartments, a boutique hotel and an art-house cinema. “We want to eat sushi ...

Voice of America

Voice of America
Mon, 29 Dec 2014 01:12:45 -0800

Proud father Toki Mathe named his first son Karabo, which means “answer from God” in the Southern Sotho language. “The new generation, we're trying to bring back that African, more of an African name, that you know what it means. Our parents were ...
Daily Maverick
Mon, 15 Sep 2014 16:25:31 -0700

But if you are a speaker of a Sotho language, it will be immediately clear to you that this is, in fact, a direct translation of the idiom Re tlo thiba ka dibono.” As Mohutsiwa explains, “The saying directly translates to 'we will block with our ...

Nigerian Observer

Nigerian Observer
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 00:15:00 -0800

The headmaster emphasised the superiority of English culture and government, but Mandela became increasingly interested in native African culture, making his first non-Xhosa friend, a Sotho language-speaking, and coming under the influence of one of ...

Independent Online

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 07:13:05 -0700

"Dr Maphalla was born and raised very close to where the stadium is located in Bluegumbosch. He has contributed immensely to the Sotho language and culture and is well loved in this community," she said. The New Age on Friday reported that the stadium ...
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 20:56:15 -0700

He is not the most highly touted prospect. Some fans might never have heard the name Mpho Ngoepe, his first name meaning "gift" in the Sotho language, his last name pronounced en-WEE-pay. He has been in the Pirates system for five years and he has not ...


Wed, 02 Jul 2014 22:25:45 -0700

A 3.7-billion-rand bus service known at Rea Vaya, or “We Are Going” in the Sotho language, was introduced in Johannesburg in 2009. Its 277 buses have displaced 887 minibus taxis, providing residents of Soweto township southwest of the city a safer and ...


Thu, 10 Apr 2014 06:30:00 -0700

The movie topped cinema charts in the Lesotho capital of Maseru during its opening weekend on 4 April. The high-quality film, which features Zenzo Nqobe, Nozipho Kelemba and Jerry Mofokeng in the starring roles, is a touching depiction of a young man's ...

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!

Searchlight Group

Digplanet also receives support from Searchlight Group. Visit Searchlight