Sotho-Tswana languages

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South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana
Linguistic classification: Niger–Congo
Glottolog: soth1248[1]

The Sotho-Tswana languages are a group of closely related Southern Bantu languages spoken in Southern Africa that include:

The Sotho-Tswana group corresponds to the S.30 label in Guthrie's (1967–1971) classification[2] of languages in the Bantu family.

Tswana (Western Sotho), Sotho (Southern Sotho), and the various dialects lumped together as Northern Sotho are all mutually intelligible.

Northern Sotho, which appears largely to be a taxonomic holding category for what is Sotho-Tswana but neither identifiably Southern Sotho nor Tswana,[3] 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 northeastern 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[4]—Lozi was misclassified as K.21.

On more than one occasion, proposals have been put forward to create a unified Sotho-Tswana language.[5][6]


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Sotho-Tswana (S.30)". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ See Doke, Clement M. (1954). The Southern Bantu Languages. Handbook of African Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  4. ^ Gowlett, Derek. (2003). Zone S. In D. Nurse & G. Philippson (eds.), The Bantu Languages, 609-638. London: Curzon/Routledge
  5. ^ Eric P. Louw (1992). "Language and National Unity in a Post-Apartheid South Africa" (PDF). Critical Arts. 
  6. ^ Neville Alexander (1989). "Language Policy and National Unity in South Africa/Azania".