Sotho–Tswana languages

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EthnicitySotho-Tswana peoples
Southern Africa, mainly in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, and south-western Zambia
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo?

Sotho–Tswana languages are a group of closely related Bantu languages spoken in Southern Africa. The Sotho–Tswana group corresponds to the S.30 label in Guthrie's 1967–71 classification[1] of languages in the Bantu family.

The various dialects of Tswana, Southern Sotho and Northern Sotho are highly mutually intelligible. On more than one occasion, proposals have been put forward to create a unified standardisation and declare a Sotho–Tswana language.


The group is divided into three main branches, Tswana, Northern Sotho, and Southern Sotho as follows:

  • Tswanaic
    • Tswana (Setswana), with dialects: Fokeng, Hurutshe, Kgatla, Kwena, Lete, Ngwaketse, Ngwato, Rolong, Tawana, Tlhaping, Tlharo, Tlokwa
    • Kgalagadi, with dialects: Nuclear Kgalagadi (Kgalagadi proper), Balaongwe, Kenyi, Khakhae, Koma, Ngologa, Pedi, Phaleng, Rhiti, Shaga, Siwane
  • Southern Sotho
    • Sesotho-Lozi
      • Southern Sotho or Sotho (Sesotho): Phuthi, Taung
  • Northern Sotho (Sesotho sa Leboa)
    • Sepedic: includes Pedi and Tswapong:
      • Pedi: Sehananwa (GaMmalebogo-Makgababeng), Sekgaga (Greater Lebowakgomo),Sekhutswe, Sekopa, Masemola (GaMasemola), Sekone (GaMatlala-Moletši), Sepai, Phalaborwa, (Mashishing-Bushbuckridge), Setlokwa (Botlokwa and GaManthata), Tšhwene (GaTšhwene)
      • Tswapong
    • Birwa
    • Lovedu (Lobedu, Khelobedu, or KhiLovedu)
    • Sepulana/Sepulane
  • Lozi (Silozi or Rozi)

Northern Sotho, which appears largely to be a taxonomic holding category for what is Sotho-Tswana but neither identifiably Southern Sotho nor Tswana,[2] subsumes highly varied dialects including Pedi (Sepedi), Tswapo (Setswapo), Lovedu (Khilobedu), Pai and Pulana. Maho (2002) leaves the "East Sotho" varieties of Kutswe, Pai, and Pulana unclassified within Sotho-Tswana.

Lozi is spoken in Zambia and north-eastern Namibia (in the Caprivi). It is distinct from the other Sotho-Tswana languages due to heavy linguistic influences from Luyaana, and possibly other Zambian and Caprivi languages. In the Guthrie work – as is now widely acknowledged[3] – Lozi was misclassified as K.21.


The Lord's Prayer in the various Sotho-Tswana languages.

English: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

  • Northern Sotho: Tatewešo wa magodimong, leina la gago a le kgethwe, mmušo wa gago a o tle, thato ya gago a e dirwe mo lefaseng bjalo ka ge e dirwa legodimong.
  • Sotho: Ntate rona ea maholimong, lebitso la hao le halaletsoe, ho tle muso oa hao, thato ea hao e etsoe lefaseng, joalo ka ha e etsoa leholimong.
  • Tswana: Rara wa rona yo o kwa legodimong, leina ja gago a le itshepisiwe, puso ya gago a e tle, thato ya gago a e dirwe mo lefatsheng jaaka kwa legodimong.
  • Lozi: Ndat’a luna ya kwa lihalimu, libizo la hao li be le li kenile. Ku tahe mubuso wa hao. Se si latwa ki wena si ezwe mwa lifasi, sina mo si ezezwa mwa lihalimu.


  1. ^ Guthrie, Malcolm (1967-1971). Comparative Bantu: An Introduction to the Comparative Linguistics and Prehistory of the Bantu Languages. (Volumes 1-4). Farnborough: Gregg International, cf. the CBOLD Guthrie name list Archived 2006-11-30 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ See Doke, Clement M. (1954). The Southern Bantu Languages. Handbook of African Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  3. ^ Gowlett, Derek. (2003). Zone S. In D. Nurse & G. Philippson (eds.), The Bantu Languages, 609-638. London: Curzon/Routledge