Talk:Sotho language

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Language name[edit]

There appears to be disagreement about how to call the language in this article. SimonDonnelly considers Sotho to be the standard appellation, while Joziboy and Zyxoas advocate Sesotho, because 'all the names in this article are in SA English'. In the history of the article, quite a few reverts back and forth can be found so maybe Simon unwittingly opened a can of worms when he changed it to Sotho with the edit summary 'Language appellation standardised'. This was reverted some two weeks later by Zyxoas with the edit summary 'Fixed language names, again'.

I'm starting a discussion here to see if we can gather consensus one way or the other, and to avoid turning this relatively minor issue into a petty revert war. Now, the basics: this edition of Wikipedia is international in scope. Therefore, article titles should use the most common term. However, in this case this is not a simple issue. Scholarly literature on the language for example seems to be about evenly divided between Sesotho and Sotho, and that's not simply a reflection of the South-African/rest of the world divide:

  • Louwrens, Louis J. and Ingeborg M. Kosch (1995) Northern Sotho. München: LINCOM Europa.
  • Lombard, D.P. and Wyk, E.B. van (1985) Introduction to the grammar of Northern Sotho. Pretoria: Van Schaik.
  • Kunene, Daniel P. (1978) The ideophone in Southern Sotho. Berlin: Reimer.
  • Demuth, Katherine A. (1983) Aspects of Sesotho language acquisition (Lesotho). Ann Arbor: UMI. Dissertation, Bloomington.
  • Khoali, Benjamin Thakampholo (1991) 'A Sesotho tonal grammar', Ann Arbor: UMI. Dissertation.
  • Alverson, Hoyt (1994) Semantics and experience : universal metaphors of time in English, Mandarin, Hindi, and Sesotho. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.

So I honestly don't know what the best solution is and I want to gather thoughts from others. — mark 10:22, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Hello, fellow readers and editors! Here's my 2c worth...
Every field — including in this case African Linguistics (or African Language Studies) — has analytic and other scholarly issues to be addressed. Some are truly important issues, e.g. whether two "dialects" can be considered independent languages or a single language. Thus: Xhosa and Zulu are standardly claimed to be separate languages, with good socio-political and historical reasons, but are linguistically very close dialects of each other (much closer than some dialects of English are to each other, and than many dialects of German are to each other). Every field also seems to acquire along the way less central issues, but which nevertheless become "issues" for various reasons. I would suggest, along with perhaps most scholars in this field, that the Bantu naming issue is truly not a central issue. But it seems to have become one.
Since the Bantu languages have an extremely rich prefix system, and every noun must grammatically belong to a particular noun class category, the noun prefixes (e.g. se- of 'Sesotho') are obligatory. But they are only used when speaking (or writing) that particular language. When I speak Italian, I say "italiano" for the language or "un italiano" for a speaker of the language, and "italiani" or "gli italiani" for the speakers, when they are numerous. But I would be considered crazy to say in English: "I think gli italiani are great people". You might say I was just being really pretentious at showing you how well I know Italian. The normal way to say this would be "I think the Italians are great people". 'Italians' is what is used to designate the people who speak Italian when I am speaking English.
So, when I speak Sotho, I say Ke a se rata haholo Sesotho "I like Sotho (i.e. the Sotho language) a lot". But only if I were trying to be pretentious would I say "I like the Sesotho language a lot". You might conclude (rightly!) that I was just showing off. It gets worse. If I want to really show off, I can say that "I know a Mosotho--in fact, I know many Basotho who speak Sesotho in Lesotho to confirm their feeling of Bosotho, but who also speak English in South Africa". So, I can use the "Sotho" stem with at least five different prefixes. What have I gained, other than trying to show off? And if I come from South Africa, I should learn at least five (sometimes more) prefixes in each of the nine official African languages...
It gets worse. When you would like to look up the name of a language in the Bantu family in a print index, you need to now know not only the stem letter "s-" for Sotho, but also all the possible prefix letters ("se-", "le-", "mo-", "ba-", "bo-"). This is obviously not practical.
I would say that, on Wikipedia, if possible, one should use simply the name of the language, as has been done in the Linguistic literature on Bantu languages for more than a century (sometimes two or more centuries), that is: "Zulu", "Shona", "Sotho", "Swahili", "Rwanda"... The isi-/chi-/se-/ki-/kinya- prefixes for each of these languages, respectively, is a kind of 'distractor' issue. By the reasoning of those inclined to use Bantu prefixes in English, we should only speak of "IsiZulu", "Chishona", "Sesotho", "Kiswahili", "Kinyarwanda". Each of the prefix variations given is of the same noun class: Class 7. But to know which version you should use, you need to first know the language in question... This seems a very tall order.
Some writers and scholars do use all these prefixes, but it's very energy-consuming (for the writer, and for the reader)! Partly it's just really hard to keep up, and partly it's grammatically incoherent. Lots and lots and lots of energy gets spent on sorting out prefixes, when in English this is not really helpful, and ultimately not really interesting (from a linguistic point of view).
Finally, when I speak Sotho, I really don't expect a Sotho-speaking person to say *"The English ba bua English" ("respecting" the names that English-speakers use in English), instead of the normal "Makgowa a bua Sekgowa" (or "Majatlhapi a bua Sejatlhapi" :-). It would be unreasonable of me to expect this.
There are major issues to be addressed (like the massive shortage of documented information about most of the languages in the Bantu family!). I hope we can direct our energies that way...
NguniTraveller 23:37, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

First, I absolutely agree with the point that this is a minor issue, and that our energy is better spent on expanding the articles in this area. I merely started a discussion here because I noticed that Zyxoas and you were silently reverting each other (all in good faith, I'm sure), and because the going back and forth without discussion didn't seem to be particularly productive.

Secondly, I'm well aware that the discussion is about having the noun class prefix or not (similar debates have surfaced repeatedly in other places, see for example Talk:Swahili_language#Ki- and Talk:African_languages#Style_for_African_language_names), and I fully agree that the normal English name of the language would be Sotho (which is why I lean towards using Sotho myself). The issue here, however, seems to be whether that holds for South African English too. I don't know; I believe Joziboy said that it does in an edit summary some time ago, but I'd like to see sources. — mark 12:43, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Thanks, Mark, for picking up the inadvertent mutual corrections of the Sotho name. You're right: it's not necessarily productive without a conversation. I hadn't followed the other Wiki conversations, but having read them now, they seem roughly to head in the same direction as the standard prefixlessness I'm suggesting we not be change.
SA English is in a certain amount of flux, in general, at levels of lexicon and especially phonetic (and even phonological) choices for English words in the new South Africa. There are so many SA Englishes (at least six broad types, and several areal variations) that it's hard to know what to do in some cases. But the stylistic choice of language-names-without-prefixes was made a long time back. It's true that there have been changes occasionally in the public forum by some speakers/writers (to the language names under discussion). But in general, the straightforward prefixless version remains optimal. I'd say the revisionist 'prefix-ful' approach to naming Bantu languages, even though well-intended, will not buy Wiki readers/writers any mileage.
Exception: I think the point on Talk:African_languages#Style_for_African_language_names about languages that have always been used with prefixes — perhaps including Chichewa, Kikongo (to disambiguate with the other Kongo languages) — is a very reasonable position to adopt. I think this exception status does not apply to Sotho (or *Sesotho), nor to any of the languages in South Africa. None has a 'prefix-ful' tradition in the two centuries preceding the present.
NguniTraveller 20:36, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
Well said. However, I think that it's been well said for far too long. When can we actually begin implementing the language appellation standard? Is it safe to say that we have a general consensus? — D. Wo. 21:46, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
Based on the discussion at Talk:African languages it seems we have a general consensus, yes. By the way, this language appellation standard has been implemented for at least two years here, it's just that there are sometimes individual cases of disagreement. — mark 08:29, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

No, no consensus.

Sorry I haven't been around to deal with this, again. Please see Template talk:Languages of South Africa.

Firstly, "appellation" is not, as far as I am aware, a standard English word for the simpler "name". My South African Oxford English Dictionary does have it, and it also says that eg. "Zulu" is "...2 another term for isiZulu..." ("-- ORIGIN from isiZulu umZulu").

Nguni, you do not need to know the entire language to use the prefixes -- just use the name. In fact, no one knows what the root "-sotho" means at all (unlike "-kgowa" (an extinct ideophone of whiteness) and "-jatlhapi" (since eating fish is traditionally taboo ;) )) -- there's no need for a layperson to analyse it at all.

Your editions to the number table were wrong. I meant it as a table of numerals, not formative roots. In Sesotho (unlike Setswana), the root for 1 is the enumerative "-ng". 6 to 10 are relatives in all the languages (no "-").

Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 13:16, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

With all due respect Zyxoas, but if I understand you well your argument is that your SA OED says that one can use both Zulu and isiZulu. That isn't exactly convincing. Besides, I'm still not sure if we should go with SA English here or with International English (this seems to be very much an open issue).
Your comment on 'appellation' vs. 'name' didn't seem relevant at first but in fact it is quite illustrative of the point here. To borrow your phrasing, Sesotho is not, as far as I am aware, a standard English word for the simpler "Sotho". What do you think of that argumentation? — mark 22:38, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Responding to the feedback from ZyXoas above, the reader will note I did not write what ZyXoas attributed to me, about needing to know the entire language. I did write: "But to know which version [of the Class 7 prefix] you should use, you need to first know the language in question...".
My point was simply that you can't know what the "real" name of Venda is, for example, until you know what the Class 7 noun prefix is in Venda (Yep, I've just seen the discussion on Venda at Template_talk:Languages_of_South_Africa as well, but it's incomplete. And yes, Venda is the only standard name for the language used by speakers of Venda when they speak in English about their own language).
The only way to know that Venda is "really" Tshivenda is to in fact know Venda. You can't guess — is it *Kivenda? *Sevenda? *Sivenda? *Isivenda? Etc. No, it's Tshivenda. You'd need to know that the Class 7 prefix shape in Venda is tshi-. Actually that's not fully right either. You'd need to know that Venda exceptionally allows its Class 11 prefix lu- to double for the language name (well, I'd prefer "language appellation" -- which is just a high-register word for the same thing. Touché! :-)).
So, you'd need to know two prefixes in Venda to get the name "right". In fact, that still ain't quite right. You'd need a little underscore caret under the 'd' to indicate (contrastive) dentality.
Wait, in fact, that's not quite right either: you'd need the tone marks on the syllables (high or low or falling, and they are contrastive in many instances, so this is phonologically contentful information, not just faffing with phonetic detail). Same goes for "Sesotho", and all other language names in Bantu, because the vast majority of languages are tonal (the standard dialect of Swahili is a notable exception). In other words, once one has started down the road of increasing accuracy with respect to the language's auto-appellation, it can turn out to be a long road... Eish. Point made.
Listen, if people REALLY really really wish to use {prefix+stem} names for a Bantu language, including Sesotho, well, ok. It's just a heck of a lot of energy, if one is going to be consistent with all languages in the region (or worse: in the whole family of 500 languages!), that's all. I bet any single reader here to write out from memory (no cheating!) a list of all nine African languages which are standard in South Africa, with the relevant people (speaker) [Class 1,2 or 1a,2a/b], place [Class 17], abstract quality [Class 14], and language/culture name [Class 7/11] prefixes... I doubt that many people on the planet could get this right. Why expend all this energy, instead of simply using the language stem like scholars have done for two hundred years? But, I leave this to the larger forum. I submit humbly that it's not worth expending too much more energy on the topic.
Yes, Mark, based on Talk:African languages, there seems to be rough agreement on the (already) standard format. Based on Template_talk:Languages_of_South_Africa, sifting in among all sort of distractor discussions, nothing seems to supersede the present conversation, nor the Talk:African languages one. I'm not going to go changing language page names, but it seems lopsided to have Xhosa language, Zulu language, Venda language, but Sesotho language. Ok, signing off on this now.
NguniTraveller 00:26, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

My vote is for Sesotho. My reason is that I lived in Lesotho for two years and learned to speak Sesotho. I did not live is Sotho with Sotho people and speak Sotho. I lived with Basotho in Lesotho and spoke Sesotho. Jeff.t.mcdonald 16:15, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

I agree with Jeff. I am a native SeSotho speaker (decendent of first and third generation immigrants) and it's proper to refer to the language as Sesotho. Prefixes play a major role in indicating respect in this language. It is kinda stupid naming the article 'Sotho language' because there is no such word as 'Sotho' in SeSotho. The word Sesotho directly refers to the language itself and sounds proper. When the word is said in spoken form it is used as a contraction (contractions are often used in Sesotho e.g. "Mmae wa mo batla" is short for "Mme wa hae o wa mo batla" 'Her mother is looking for her'). The title is not formal and sounds disrespectful. Fruitandnut (talk) 00:37, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

Yes, the name of the language is Sesotho in Sotho. However, this is the English Wikipedia, and the term is Sotho, just like the language is "French" in English, not Francais. This has been discussed countless times, please read the history. Greenman (talk) 16:28, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

Hi everyone; I just saw this discussion (though almost a decade late :) ) thanks to Dwo; when I "corrected" the name of my native tongue on here I had no idea there was such a fierce war going on about it. I read through all the comments/suggestions/questions above and I'm thrilled that many people (non-native speakers included) care enough about my language to help document. I do realise though, that there really is no consensus for either side of the argument; as a native speaker I naturally do support the correct naming of the language: "Sesotho"; as much as arguments for "Sotho" are detailed and clear, there is a little flaw - anglicization; African languages generally seem to fall prey to this by European languages/English speaking enthusiasts/linguists; as we're all aware, '-sotho' is not even a noun for Pete's sake, the example cited to support the incorrect renaming, "Italian", serves to show how incorrect naming this language "Sotho" is; -sotho is a suffix, is "Italian" a suffix too? All "anglicized versions" of African languages (those I've seen, many) have taken this form; not only is this incorrect, it's disrespectful too! Funny enough there's supposedly a "consensus" to use the incorrect "Sotho" as the name of the language, I'm sorry I don't see any consensus, besides, how many of us here even speak the language? I'd expect a native speaker of a language to know more/better about it, no disrespect to all the linguists whose input is also valuable, but there is no consensus. Please see this incomplete list of Sesotho publications. Documenting and standardizing African languages is very good and beneficial for their preservation, thanks to everyone that's been lending a hand to that noble cause; anglicizing them on the other hand taints the very good act. "Sesotho" is the name of the language. Let's please respect and treat all languages equally.

Mohahlaula (talk) 00:15, 1 November 2014 (UTC)


Based on the discussion above and on similar discussions in other places I have moved the article to from Sesotho language to Sotho language to reflect the fact that "Sotho" is the most common English name for this language. The English name for this language is Sotho; the Sotho name for this language is Sesotho. Common usage trumps specialist usage in an encyclopedia of international scope. — mark 12:24, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

I wonder, would Southern Sotho be a more appropriate name for this article to distinguish it from Northern Sotho? — D. Wo. 14:27, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

When did this become an issue about moving the article? I disappear for 1 day and...

Is "Southern Sotho" the "most common English name" for the language? You see, for South Africans who speak and live the languages there is absolutely no confusion at all. No one gets confused with "Sesotho" and "Northern Sesotho" (though even the government seems confused with "Northern Sesotho" and "Sepedi"...).

Mark, you're a linguist -- not a typical English speaker. 2 days ago I even saw a paper calling Kinyarwanda "Nyarwanda" (quick: what's wrong with that?)! Everyone seems to be falling over themselves trying to be "prescriptive" while hiding behind "consensus" and making diagonal arguments about Germans and Italians!

Is it "Sotho" or "Southern Sotho" or "Soto" or "Sutu" or "Suto" or... (depending on decade and IQ)? It has many incorrect English names, and it has always had 1 correct name -- Sesotho.

Yes, I AM taking this very personally; I'm sure you can all understand why. Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 15:35, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Actually, why don't we move Basotho to "Sothos" too (though Casallis would've preferred "Basuto")?

Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 15:43, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Zyxoas, I have been clear about why I started this discussion: we were silently going back and forth between Sotho and Sesotho and I didn't think that very productive. I haven't actually watched your contributions to pick a moment when you would be away. Yes, I'm a linguist. Note that that would bias me towards using Sesotho instead of Sotho (there are quite some linguistic publications which use 'Sesotho'). I think the arguments are clear and for all to see, and they have nothing to do with the exceptions (Kinyarwanda) or rare variants of the name (Sutu, Suto) you are citing.
And now that you mention it, yes, I do think you're taking this too personal. I know you have written most of this article, that you speak the language, and that you have contributed lots of valuable content in the broader area of South African languages. Unfortunately, as the box below the edit window always warns us, that doesn't mean you get the last word on every change.
Lastly, there is plenty of space in the article to point out the 'correct' name and all sorts of variant spellings; but for the title of this article in the English edition of Wikipedia, which is international in scope, I think it is best to use Sotho, the English term most widely used to refer to the language. — mark 15:50, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Oh, Nguni's challenge...

From the top of my head (I'll include a few other classes, for good measure)...

  1. Sesotho: Motho, Batho, Ntate, Bontate, Boholo, Ho bona, Letsatsi, Matsatsi, Setlhare, Ditlhare, Ntho, Dintho.
  2. Setswana and Northern Sesotho are the same, except for Go bona.
  3. isiZulu: Umuntu, Abantu, Ubaba, Abobaba, Ubuntu, Ukubona, Ithanga, Amathanga, Isimo, Izimo, Into, Izinto.
  4. isiNdebele is the same.
  5. isiXhosa: Umuntu, Abantu, Utata, Ootata, Ubuntu, Ukubona, Ithanga, Amathanga, Isimo, Izimo, Into, Iinto.
  6. SiSwati I don't really know enough about (Lilanga, Tindzaba...)
  7. Tshivenda (guessing): Muthu, Vhathu, Mark, Vho-Mark, Vhuthu, U Vhona, Lifungo, Mafhungo, Tshikolo, Dzikolo, Ndau, Dzindau
  8. Xitsonga (guessing): Munhu, Vanhu, (skipping some), Xikolo, Tikolo (skipping others)

No, I didn't need to know all that to simply memorise the correct names, and I'm not even a ("real") linguist. Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 16:41, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Mark, I mentioned that Kinyarwanda error to show that even African linguists, who should know better, get it wrong all the time.

No, as a linguist you would prefer "Sotho" (the various revisions of Mabille and Dieterlen spring to mind); I think Ivory tower is the correct idiom.

A great and wonderful change is happening in South Africa, perhaps it is indeed "revisionism" -- we're revising the mistakes and long-standing idiocy of past and replacing them with truths. It's a question of dignity, and it really wouldn't kill anyone to simply remember the 11 names as laid down in the constitution. We're not English (or German or Belgian or French or Portuguese or American) and it's simply a mild reversal of the lies systematically imposed on this continent. THAT'S why I'm taking this personally -- not just because I wrote this article.

If it was left to "consensus" and people like Dwo this article would be 2 paragraphs long, Ubuntu (ideology) and other articles wouldn't exist.

Zyxoas, you don't even know me, and you're going to pretend to know the way I feel towards these type of articles?
I am grateful that you've taken the time to compose your knowledge of the topic here. I probably wouldn't have learned the things about the language that I know now if a Wikipedia article didn't spike my interest. Still, you do not own this article. Articles on Wikipedia need to be written with a worldwide view in mind and not one of just South Africa.
Now, to be serious, you are really being uncivil. Argue facts, not personalities. Don't argue about my supposed tendency to make articles two paragraphs long. You know nothing about who I am, so don't even bring it up. Argue the facts. — D. Wo. 22:06, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Article on single Simpsons episodes would continue being longer than articles on African languages. Articles will continue talking about "tribes" and "dialects". Articles will continue getting "info" on African topics from the 1911 Uncyclopedia Idiotiqua.

They have gotten it wrong in the past, and shall continue to do so until someone imposes a bit of revisionism.

These are the things the international English speaking Wikipedia majority is content with allowing to continue. This article's name is just 1 more victim.

Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 17:53, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Zyxoas, there is no relation between the title of this article and the issue of systemic bias. We certainly should find ways to fight systemic bias, but I'm pretty sure that ranting on talk pages isn't an effective way to do so. — mark 19:20, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

"Ranting on talk pages"? Thank you for your time, Mark. Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 21:12, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

No offense intended; that was the best characterization of your 17:53 posting I could come up with, but maybe I'm taking it too personal now. I fully agree that it is a travesty that most Pokémon characters have better coverage than most Bantu languages, and you know that. I just don't see the link between the name of this article and the systemic bias of Wikipedia, which I have tried to remedy from my very first day here. — mark 21:33, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Alright, Dwo, let's "argue the facts". The simple fact is that you seem to have made absolutely no useful edits to African language articles at all (by adding extra content) yet as soon as this issues was raised you emerged from your lair and took the opportunity to enforce "consensus" on this article and the template -- that's really annoying and petty. Had this article not existed you would (could) not have created it, so I find it awfully peculiar that you're getting involved, again. Mark and Simon at least know what they're talking about and this is very important for them; I don't really see how your views are at all relevant, especially on such a sensitive issue. Please stop trolling. Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 00:25, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Mark, you archive link is broken. Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 00:27, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Fixed that, thanks. — mark 08:30, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Zyxoas, I think your comments are personal remarks that have no place here. I think it would be best for both of you to ignore each other for a while. — mark 08:45, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

[Mahlomola], If I may, I would like to call the attention of the two, authors Mark and Zyxoas, to the purpose that the prefix "Se" in the word "Sesotho" actually serves. Unlike the English language, this language uses prefixes to classify or categorize different nouns. For example, most (but not all) nouns containing the prefix "Mo" refer to a *person*. Examples include, motho (a person), moloi (a witch), moana (which has been influenced by pronunciation to become "ngwana", and means "A child"), moabi (a distributer or divider), mosebeletsi (an employee), moemedi (a representative), etc. The prefix "se" (notice the use of a small letter, as opposed to a capital letter), usually refers to objects or activities and acts. Examples include sebetsa (a weapon), seeta (a shoe), sello (a complaint or the act of complaining, or a scream or moan), setho (a member, which or may not be human). There are many other examples of prefixes of this nature. The prefix "Se", particularly classifies such words as languages, just as the prefix "bo" usually refers to so called "states".I.e Botho (the state of being human), bohlale (the state of being smart or "Intelligence"), boloi (the state or practice of witch craft), and so on. In this way, the prefix "Se" (Please note the use of the capital letter), simply serves to classify such words as languages (Although it may also be used in context). As such, the name of any language, will be pronounced with the prefix "Se" attached. Examples include, Senyesemane (English), Seburu (Afrikaans), Sepedi, Sepotokesti (Portuguese), Seqhotsa (isixhosa), Sejapane (Japanese), And so on. Hence, home language speakers of the language refer to it as "Sesotho".

My own proposition is that the name of the language be retained as "Sesotho", although I agree that it is much easier to pronounce the name in the context of the english speaker, simply as "Sotho", just as they do with "Zulu" (N.B home language speakers call the language "Isizulu", where the prefix "Isi" is synonymous with the Sotho prefix "Se").

(talk to me - I'll listen)  — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mahlomola.C.M (talkcontribs) 13:07, 2 September 2011 (UTC) 

Redirects/disambiguation Needed[edit]

Hi, I just thought I'd point out, in the midst of this raging maelstrom, that Sotho redirects to Basotho with nary a mention of the language. I'd suggest one or more disambiguation pages for Sotho, Sesotho, etc. Batamtig 00:43, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Do we really need disambiguation? If you type in Zulu or Tswana, you won't get a disambiguation page; you'll go right to the article about the people group. On the other hand, type in German or French, and you will end up at a disambiguation page asking you to decide between the language or the people. This is a tough one; there's precedent for both. — D. Wo. 02:54, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

There's no ambiguity between "Sesotho" and "Basotho". Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 18:27, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

To you, perhaps, but disambiguation should serve as a guide to those with no prior knowledge. If someone picks up on a ref. to "Sotho" on another article, they should be able to search on the word with a reasonable chance of elucidating it. Disambiguation is for terms which might reasonably be confused, not only for explicitly (legitimately) ambiguous terms. Also, why should Sotho redirect to Basotho and not Sesotho? Batamtig 06:53, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Hmm. As Dwo notes, there's precedent for both. Many language / people pairs seem to be located at X language / X people, so that would be an argument for Sotho people and a dab at Sotho. Additionally, Sotho as a dab might be a place to explain a bit about Lesotho/Sesotho/Basotho. But I don't feel very strongly about it. — mark 19:24, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Were talking about multiple languages, ethnic groups, a language group, a country, etc. so I think disambig. is warranted (If nothing else, it could give a short explanation of the "Sotho/Sesotho" controversy). So, e.g. we have Sotho, Sesotho, Sesotho sa Leboa, Northern Sotho, Northern Sesotho, (even, apparently 'Eastern Sotho'), Sotho language group, Sotho-Tswana, Mosotho, Basotho, Lesotho, and so on. This situation is less like French or Zulu and more like like Turk/Turkish/Turkic.
The issue of whether a link goes to the language, ethnic group, or disambiguation page is separate to the fact that a disambig. should be made. Batamtig 06:53, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I went ahead and created the disambiguation page at Sotho. I also moved Basotho to Sotho people. Is it pretty much agreed that this page should be moved to Southern Sotho language? — D. Wo. 00:06, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
It is my impression that most people talking about the 'Sotho language' mean 'Southern Sotho', i.e., 'Sotho' is the more common term, not 'Southern Sotho'. I may be wrong, but that's my impression. — mark 09:18, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree with Mark. There's plenty precedent for the standard usage of 'Sotho' without any qualifiers to refer to the language. I'd change the first line of the article to read:
Sotho (Sesotho or Southern Sotho) is a language spoken in southern Africa.
Thanks for making the disambig. page. —Batamtig 09:28, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

I just thought I'd add that the term 'Southern Sotho' is normally used when one wants to distinguish the language from 'Northern Sotho' — Batamtig 10:03, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

I read the WP:MOS as saying that we should use common names, not maximally contrastive names. — mark 10:09, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

I moved the page from Sotho to Sotho (disambiguation) and expanded the disambig. entries. I also redirected Sotho to Sotho people, consistent with Zulu, Tswana, etc. There should still be a dab placed on Sotho people referring to the language. —Batamtig 06:09, 20 December 2006 (UTC)

Is it too late to add my two cent's worth? I see I've been quoted above, but I haven't been online much in the past few months so I haven't been able to comment or follow this debate (can't believe it's still raging!). Firstly, I think this obsession with consistency is a little odd when we all know that English is a mongrel language that borrows words freely, sometimes adapts them, sometimes does not. I don't think the fact that isiZulu is less common in English than Zulu has any bearing on Sesotho, where the prefixed version is the most common.
Evidence? I'm pretty suspicious of this statement, especially since I know several mother tongue Sotho speakers who refer to their language as Sotho, or use the two terms interchangeably. Did you read Nguni's well-versed and persuasive arguments above? He's an excellent linguist who's done a lot of fieldwork in Lesotho, so I think his opinions should count for something, and I haven't seen any response from the pro-prefix side which actually addresses his arguments. BTW, all languages are "mongrels", to some extent —Batamtig 20:58, 20 December 2006 (UTC)
If that grates people because it's not consistent with the others (I agree English speakers call it Swahili not Kiswahili and Shona not Chishona... but I honestly believe that most English-speakers call Sesotho Sesotho) then that's a separate issue. Using "Sotho" without the language prefix is confusing (because Sotho is usually used for the language group - ie, Sotho languages. As contrasted to Nguni languages) and is just plain dying out. EVERYONE calls it Sesotho, not just South African English speakers. When Prince Harry did his gap year in Lesotho, the BBC spoke of "Sesotho, the language of Lesotho". Joziboy 13:21, 20 December 2006 (UTC)
That's one individual. I agree that consistency is over-rated, but that's not the point, IMO. Also, I'm afraid, if you mention "Sotho" to most English-speakers (those who've actually heard if it, that is), they will think of the language rather than the language group. In fact "Sotho language group" is rather specialised knowledge, so I don't think we need to worry about confusion here. For instance, there is both a "Turkish language," and a "Turkish language group". This seems to be quite a common situation in linguistics. —Batamtig 20:58, 20 December 2006 (UTC)

No, it's not one individual. It's the BBC. And knowing of the Sotho languages isn't particularly specialised knowledge - any South African will know that the two main groups of languages here are Nguni and Sotho. But what can you do - there's obviously no correct answer since both are used and, as someone mentioned above, SA English is in a state of flux. My main objection was to the argument that calling it Sesotho means we have to adopt prefixes for every other Bantu language. Each case should be looked at individually. Joziboy 22:19, 20 December 2006 (UTC)

Sorry, I misunderstood your point about the BBC. However, a quick search of reveals far more instances of 'Sotho' than 'Sesotho'. Lamentably, it's not true that "any South African will know that the two main groups of languages here are Nguni and Sotho", as much as I feel this should be basic knowledge for all South Africans (of course there are other language groups as well, which also shouldn't be ignored), many are simply unaware of such things. There is indeed no "correct" answer, but there are persuasive reasons for avoiding the prefix-names in English. I do agree, however, that each language's entry should be handled individually, and if it can be shown that "Sesotho" has become the most common usage, I'd change my opinion about the article's naming. —Batamtig 01:23, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

Yep, "still raging". You might also like to assert your opinion @ Talk:Sotho people (my good friend Dwo took the opportunity to move Basotho there).

I see you've been hanging around forums a lot. Are you still an illegal immigrant? Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 14:52, 20 December 2006 (UTC)

Hahaha, yes. Only months until they chuck me out no doubt :) How you doing? Did you end up moving up to Pretoria? Joziboy 22:19, 20 December 2006 (UTC)

Violations of WP:OWN[edit]

Please see Talk:Basotho#Violations_of_WP:OWN. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Batamtig (talkcontribs) 17:55, 24 December 2006 (UTC).

My edits today[edit]

I uploaded and inserted an image, put in an outline (as a comment), and gave a rather long-ish sample text.

If anyone sees anything wrong with these edits please go ahead and fix them -- I will not be able to do it myself anytime soon after today. It would be nice if someone could somehow coax the vowel chart to appear above the table (or any other more aesthetically pleasing position) rather than beside it.

If someone (with time an a Commons account) could move the image to Commons it would also please me infinitely!

Thank you. Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 08:39, 18 January 2007 (UTC)

Minor revision[edit]

Once again, if you see any opportunity to improve the content, then please go ahead. I'm sure there  of minor errors I didn't see.

I realise now that the article might perhaps be a tad bit on the somewhat longish side (maybe), so I'll begin working offline on a plan to separate it into individual articles in a "series", as many lesser languages have (you know, like English and French).

Sorry about the quality of the audio samples. If you (or your next door Haitian neighbour who practises Vodou) know how to remove -25 dB broadband noise with minimal FFT "glass" artefacts then please fix them.

I removed the text from Senkatana because it was copyrighted (and the entire play sucks). I'll see if I can find a good, non-copyrighted, non-governmental text somewhere.

About the IPA and hover text:

Each one of the 1541 instances of hover text matches the regular expression:
using Template:H:title which User:Patrick modified slightly especially for my revision.
This regex should work with most engines (it was tested with the Python re library), though you should probably escape the curly braces just to be on the safe side. When it finds a match it returns 4 groups, though only the first 2 are really useful (of the other 2, 1 repeats the second group and the other is blank; which is which depends on whether or not the example text was a Wikilink).

The font used by Mozilla to display the hover text seems to change according to the cricket scores, and the number of sixes scored in each over... Sometimes the near-close near-front vowel is displayed properly and the open-mid front vowel is large and clearly visible; at other times the former looks like a malformed small square bracket and the latter is small and indistinct and looks like a weird 8. However, if the browser can display the IPA in the main text properly (with a complete-ish unicode font) then I don't see why it wouldn't be able to do it in the hover text (indeed, on my broken IE the hover text is better at displaying the IPA than the main text itself). I feel that this solution is a lot more elegant LOOKING (though perhaps not 100% elegantly implemented) than having the IPA follow the text in an article with so many examples. Certainly, not having any IPA at all would be a real tragedy.

I took the decision to use /ɪ/ and /ʊ/ instead of /ɨ/ and /ʉ/ for the near-close vowels. I didn't think that this would be too controversial, though it does contradict D & M and other texts. I imagine that the meaning of the two latter IPA symbols has changed and these sources are simply outdated? Therefore, I think that Image:Sesotho_vowel_chart.gif should be deleted if everyone agrees since Image:Sesotho_vowel_chart-rev.gif is the chart with the corrected symbols.

Of course I didn't enter all the IPA by hand, silly!

If anyone knows how to make the vowel table and the vowel chart image lie right next to each other then please fix it. It looked a million times better at home in HTML :(

Zyxoas (talk listen) 11:55, 19 March 2007 (UTC)


The article is beyond anything justified for this topic. You need to start making sub-articles pronto. I've tagged the article with a long-template for now. I wouldn't even consider removing it until the article is down to at most 60k.

Peter Isotalo 15:56, 2 April 2007 (UTC)

I'd like to know what you mean by "the article is beyond anything justified for this topic." What exactly WOULD be "justified" for this topic?

If you had read my previous post above then you would've learned that I AM aware of the size issue and I am working on it (well, not NOW -- my nephew's playing Grand Theft Auto).

I'll be implementing all the changes in one go soon (creating 7 new articles, a new category, and a navigational template) and I will take care of the size template myself (it will be 35 KB long) -- no need to bother yourself with that. Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 20:21, 3 April 2007 (UTC))

It's a single-language article. Not even our longest language FAs are more than 71-74k, and they're usually a bit more well-rounded. 95% of the info here seems to be either about grammar or phonology. Barely any sociolinguistics, dialectology, speaker demography, etc. And there's no history whatsoever. Really not a compelling read unless you're very much into linguistics.
Good thing you're aware of the issue, but I thought it was kinda urgent to point out that a 220k article is really pretty extreme. I mean, it's the 9th longest page on Wikipedia right now. The only ones that are longer are lists. Not even World War II is longer...
Why is the term "copulative" used instead of copula, btw?
Peter Isotalo 07:57, 4 April 2007 (UTC)

Edit the the Parts of Speech section to read the comment I placed there about the names.

The term "Phonetics" refers to the study of the production of the phonemes (sounds which can be used to distinguish minimal pairs, beak and peak) in the language. "Phonology" describes how the phonemes are expressed as allophones (members of the same phoneme which are pronounced differently, peak and speak), how they behave when put together (phonotactics), any significant intonation they may have (stress and tones) &c. See this page for a discussion.

Btw the discussions of the phonetics and phonology will have their own articles when I implement the changes I'm currently working on (and so will the verbs, the nouns, the other parts of speech in general, the concords, and the tonology). All I need from your side is some patience.

Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 10:03, 4 April 2007 (UTC)

The study of the sounds of individual languages is called "phonology" and the sound system of a single language is called a "phonology". Using "phonetics" in this context would be akin to naming a section of, say an article about a country, "linguistics" instead of "languages". In general, one shouldn't name sections or sub-sections after the disciplines that is concerned with the topic of that section.
Ok, I tried editing the "Parts of Speech"-section, and (after some tinkering) I saw the rationale about using Doke's terms, but it doesn't seem justified. Inserting hidden comments for using non-standard terms isn't satisfactory. You need to format the article so that the average reader can follow your reasoning. Right now, the article seems like it's been copied almost straight out of a book written by linguists for linguists. Another problem that emerged when I edited the article, though; the huge amounts of extra commentary, footnote-like qualifications and overall odd formatting. I removed a lot of it, and I can only recommend that you not try to explain anything you do through invisible comments. If you feel that what you've contributed requires hidden comments, I really recommend that you reword the text instead. The article should be readable without having to click the edit button.
Oh, and if you're concerned about too much showing up in the main TOC, then you should really just trim the section structure instead of constructing brand new forms of article hierarchy. Same goes for hiding material instead of simply removing it from the article altogether. You can place it here on the talkpage if you feel the need to keep it somewhere until inserting in the article. Or you can create a sub-page to use as a staging area.
Overall, the article is promising. The sound samples, for example, is a strength. But it's just too obvious that much of the info from the sources has been inserted without applying much of a summary style.
Peter Isotalo 14:28, 4 April 2007 (UTC)

I actually like most of your last edit.

Here's the deal: I was, and am, working on editing this article offline (this works because it usually doesn't get much traffic). I have a dozen windows open in Notepad++, checking changes in HTML, absorbing Doke & Mofokeng, reading electronic papers, spell checking, and generally being very busy. Thus the Wikicode looks like it was whipped up by some hacker with too much time in his bedroom (because it was) with comment and weird formatting.

This raises another issue: I'm working on the OLD code and I CANNOT access the current version. So any extensive changes may be lost when I load my revision. Your last edit was obvious and I will implement MOST of the changes (the parts of speech TOC is another issue...)

(please wait while I finish my comment before responding... I'll sign when I'm finished)

About the very detailed and extensive content:

Much of this information is of a very general Bantu languages nature. This information is very much lacking on Wikipedia and the internet in general. I'm hoping that, just as in the past articles mentioning noun classes linked to this article (since it was and is the only one I know of which doesn't just mention Bantu noun classes in passing), that it will, in the meantime, become a hub of other pieces of knowledge mentioned in passing in other articles (such as Bantu morphology and tonology).

There are entire articles on single English phonemes, single Biblical verses, single Simpson's episodes etc. I hope my work on this article at least makes a small difference. There IS, after all, an entire continent of Africans out there...

Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 16:50, 4 April 2007 (UTC)

Beautiful work[edit]

Great, great work Zyxoas.

<cough> For some reason the article was briefly relocated to Sesotho language. I have moved the article back to Sotho language as there was a clear consensus for that title. Hate to spoil the fun but I do think consensus should be respected. — mark 11:46, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

Ah, only now I see the extent of Zyxoas' Master Plan: all subarticles of course have Sesotho (and not Sotho) in their title too. Zyxoas, you've been here for three years I believe; how have you been able to survive here for so long with your apparent contempt of consensus? — mark 11:49, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

Doesn't matter to me anymore, dude; I've really had enough of the language — I think I'll speak just isiZulu for the next few months and see how that pans out...

btw, it's not through sheer coincidence that almost all references I consulted speak of "Sesotho" and not "Sotho." For example, in "High tone spread in the Sotho verb" (see Sesotho tonology) "Sotho" refers to the group, and the individual languages are named "Sesotho," "Setswana," "Setswapo," and "a Northern Sotho dialect." Similarly for most of the other contemporary and scholarly articles I consulted (all — except for "Sotho-Nguni orthography" which you kindly provided, Doke & Mofokeng, and Doke & Vilikazi — are available freely on the internet if you'd like to check).

It may indeed be the consensus of Wikipedia that the name is "Sotho", but the contemporary scholarly consensus (at least the small fraction which I had access to) thinks that it is "Sesotho."

In the ODT tonology in isiXhosa article (see Sesotho tonology again) Setswana is called, well, Setswana. This is Kisseberth, people, not my good friend Mr. Typical English Speaker. Mr. Hyman also seems to think it is Sesotho (iirc in one article on the template system of Bantu extensions, but I don't think I included it in my references, but you can still check for it if you wish). Demuth, who does pioneering work in language acquisition in Sesotho and Bantu languages in general, also consistently calls it "Sesotho." And lastly, Thejane, who has conducted almost 23 years of extensive field work in the language, also seems to normally call it "Sesotho" (personal communications, 2007). These are people who specialise in studying these topics.

When Mr. Typical English Speaker, whom we should really not expect to be awfully conversant in this matters, types "Sotho" (as all of Mr. Average's kin are likely to do, since not everyone thinks to qualify these searches) he should, rightly, be given the choice between Sesotho language and Basotho at a dab page. The word "Sotho" may, as an English convenience, mean either, but the name of the language is "Sesotho."

I have said this before, but I shall stress it again. You do not need to know the whole of Sesotho morphology and noun classes to remember the language's name. Seriously, you don't! You can still see Sesotho nouns if you're truly interested, though...

It almost seems as if different (non-contemporary) authors coined various names at the spur of the moment and just went with that (but also contemporary: apparently the language name "Sutu" in Microsoft office, as late as the XP version which I have, refers to "Southern and Northern Sotho" collectively; right, Mr. Gates...). This language does have a name, and it is "Sesotho", it really doesn't need any others, especially several with inconsistent justifications (see Ethnologue's assorted and colourful array of choices, for example).

Another thing, the name "Sesotho" is less confusing for an international audience than "Sotho" when it comes to the whole Sotho/Northern Sotho/Southern Sotho/Pedi/Sepedi debacle. Additionally, the group names "Sotho languages"/"Sotho-Tswana languages" also seem less confusing in this light.

But, as I've repeatedly said before, I need a break! Enjoy!

Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 12:58, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

I've only been around for a short time, but I can see the problem here. The thing to realise about Wiki is that nobody owns what they contribute. I think Zyxoas should let go of his work, get on with more important projects, and let the English linguists decide whether corrections need to be made here. After all, the article is written in English and not Sotho, so a deferral is warranted. 16:54, 21 April 2007 (UTC) DawnTreader (B.T.W. - the Zulu section has had this debate already)

My command of the English language is much more than adequate. This, coupled with my knowledge of my own language, its grammatical theory, and its relationship with other related languages means that I certainly qualify to participate in these debates and my views are most certainly important (they should certainly have more weight than the unqualified views of an average monolingual English speaker who seems to have adopted a new 2 week hobby).

But thanks for your "input" (is that the correct English term?) anyway.

Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 19:18, 21 April 2007 (UTC)

Let's try not to bite the newcomers. DawnTreader/, you might want to read some of the earlier debates of this issue, as it has come up many times in the past. If you do so, you'll probably understand Zyxoas' impatient tone. See above, under Language name and following sections and many links given in that conversation for plenty of links to related discussions as well as plenty of examples. — mark 19:35, 21 April 2007 (UTC)

I presume from the history that Zyxoas has deleted the whole discussion. Are we allowed to nominate someone for a Wiki 'Mampara' award?

Zyxoas, I hope it wasn't me you were referring to when you wrote "average monolingual English speaker"?

@Mark, thanks, but I don't mind a few "bites", as long as he is not infectious! I've read some of the debates on this issue. The one in the Zulu language section was most convincing. 20:51, 21 April 2007 (UTC)DawnTreader

Shouldn't that be "Mpara," WITHOUT the suffix? MD, please revert my accidental blanking. Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 20:54, 21 April 2007 (UTC)

Feel free to correct it... In fact, while you are at it, you can fix your "accidental" erasure of the notes. In my culture, if you break something - YOU fix it! I'm sure you are well practised in that regard ;-) 11:57, 22 April 2007 (UTC)DawnTreader

I reverted the accidental blanking. Zyxoas probably could not fix it himself because the talk page is so huge; he usually is on a terribly slow connection. — mark 19:39, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

Thank you.

Actually, I'm on a phone using Opera Mini, which crashes once I start sending forms (edit boxes) with a few thousand characters. That's also the reason why I can't revert the disruptive personal attacks on my talk page, but I'll just ignore them for now.

Zyxoas (talk to me - I'll listen) 21:02, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

"my talk page" .... are you serious?!?

I suppose an accidentally 'blanked' talk page would help you a lot on your little phone then? You could have just asked ... In case you are tempted to delete anything else, might I just warn you about the 3RR (Three Reversion Rule). 19:46, 23 April 2007 (UTC)DawnTreader

<cough> Stay cool when the editing gets hot <cough> — mark 15:48, 25 April 2007 (UTC)

We can be "cool" and just be "silently going back and forth between Sotho and Sesotho" in an "unproductive" manner (your words) over 4 months or we can grow a pair and deal with the fly in the proverbial ointment and get on with improving Wiki. :-) 16:15, 25 April 2007 (UTC) DawnTreader

So how exactly is your way of going about it more productive? The solution worked for four months. Of course, in the meantime, Zyxoas was working on his masterplan: alongside a fabulous expansion of Wikipedia's content on Southern Sotho, he managed to sneak in his preferred way of naming. I immediately reverted his move of Sotho language to Sesotho language, I notified him that I wasn't so sure whether this part of his plan would stand, but I didn't get around to changing the hundreds of instances of Sesotho to Sotho in the subarticles (someone should perhaps get a bot to do it).
In any case, making angry statements and starting a revert war wasn't part of my strategy, you're right about that.
PS Why not register an account? — mark 17:35, 25 April 2007 (UTC)

Lesotho Scouts Association[edit]

Can someone render "Lesotho Scouts Association" and "Be Prepared", the Scout Motto, into Sotho? Thanks! Chris 15:35, 7 August 2007 (UTC)

I won't promise outright that I'll do it since it could take me 2 days or 2 months to deliver (depending on how lazy I am), but I'll see what I can do... Tebello TheWHAT!!?? 10:32, 16 August 2007 (UTC)
The name is "Sesotho," btw... ;-) Tebello TheWHAT!!?? 10:35, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

Sesotho wiktionary[edit]

I'm trying to develop the Sesotho Wiktionary - please lend a hand or if possible take part in the elections for adminship:

My work so far can be accessed from that page.

Kind regards Jakoli4 11:50, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

writing system[edit]

What script is used? -- (talk) 13:42, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

Latin, obviously. See Sesotho orthography. Tebello TheWHAT!!?? 19:59, 3 February 2008 (UTC)
Thanks, but this page lacks information about writing system other than a mere link to Sesotho orthography. It should be resolved. -- (talk) 01:38, 4 February 2008 (UTC)
It contains examples in the Latin script. I think that's a very big clue. It also contains a warning about the differing orthographies used in South Africa and Lesotho. Tebello TheWHAT!!?? 07:53, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

Does anyone who helped write this article actually SPEAK the language??[edit]

There are a lot of factual errors in this article (not even looking at the title). Are there any native Sesotho speakers here and not just some white guys who took it as a university course? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Fruitandnut (talkcontribs) 00:50, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

Besides the name of the article, which as already discussed is correct as it stands, do you have anything constructive to add? If you see errors, it would help to either list them or fix them, not just make blinkered complaints. Greenman (talk) 16:28, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

I'll fix them. No need for ad hominem. (talk) 03:53, 21 December 2010 (UTC)