Talk:Xhosa language

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"The Click Song" and Xhosa r/rh[edit]

On "The Click Song," someone with Makeba's album should double-check the lyrics. I don't hear "bathi" in there at all.

Also, my Xhosa textbook spells igqirha with an rh, but the lyrics here have *igqira. I notice in the table of consonants above, there is an rh and a gr, but no single r. I think the correct spelling must be rh (which is in IPA /x/), not a simple r. Compare with a recording.

--Dupes 20:35, 14 October 2006 (UTC)

are you sure?[edit]

Are you sure there's ever an exclamation point there? I think you're confusing Xhosa with the Khoisan languages.

You are absolutely right; Ethnologue mentions many names for Xhosa, none with an exclamation mark. arj 19:55, 19 Feb 2004 (UTC)

"Gender system"[edit]

To call this a gender system, to me, is really strange as there is absolutely no correlation with gender. There is also something like 15 classes, none of them with any relation to gender. Many of the classes pair to form singular-plural pairs. My knowledge is about Zulu, but I'm quite sure its the same for Xhosa.

The original meaning of "gender" is "kind, type", and not "sex". I agree it can be confusing, and in languages with more than two or three genders, these are often termed "noun classes" - which the article uses as the primary term. "Genders" in scare quotes should stay, in my opinion, since many non-linguists are not aware of the proper term, nor of the existence of languages with many noun classes. arj 18:43, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I think it's important to show readers that Xhosa noun classes have the same function as French/Spanish/German genders. Also note that one of the Scandinavian languages (I think Danish) has a neuter and a common gender, but neither masculing nor feminine. --Taejo 07:45, 15 July 2005 (UTC)

Gender is a standard linguistic term for this. The meaning of 'sex' is recent, and derived from the linguistic term. Danish, Dutch, Swedish and at least one of the |Norwegian languages do not distinguish masculine from feminine nouns. ColinFine 12:49, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

-- (talk) 19:42, 7 November 2013 (UTC)


In regard to the sentence "The members of the ethnic group that speaks Xhosa refer to themselves as the amaXhosa and their language is known as isiXhosa." in the second paragraph - and elsewhere. Is the language called Xhosa or isiXhosa? --Eleassar777 16:53, 17 Feb 2005 (UTC)

They call it isiXhosa, whereas most English speakers call it Xhosa. - Mustafaa 17:40, 17 Feb 2005 (UTC)
...and the isi is the noun class prefix of the class that includes names of languages; that's why the native name is isiXhosa, whereas Xhosa, without noun class prefix, is generally used in English. (Check out both Kiswahili and Swahili for another example). mark 23:40, 17 Feb 2005 (UTC)

There is no inconsistency (nor any "incosistency"). All the article is (correctly) saying is that the Xhosa word for the Xhosa language is "isiXhosa", just as one might say the Spanish word for the Spanish language is "Espagnol". Whenever the Xhosa language is referred to in the article, it is called, correctly, Xhosa, because Xhosa is the correct name of the language in English.
There is indeed a silly pretension in some quarters to try to impose the vernacular words on to English, thus isiXhosa for Xhosa, isiZulu for Zulu, seTswana for Tswana, tsiVenda for Venda, etc. This is as silly as saying "Huberta's mother-tongue is Gaeilge" when what you mean to say is "Huberta's mother-tongue is Irish" or "Pasha speaks fluent русский язык" when what you mean is "Pasha speaks fluent Russian".
&cet.Brockle 12:09, 16 April 2007 (UTC)

The q, c and x letters were chosen to convey the hint that non-native speakers can replace the click with the 'k' sound with little loss in meaning.

This sounds like rubbish: the q, c and x were (I've always assumed) chosen because they have no unique sound in English - i.e. are unnecessary - because they can be replaced with kw, k or s, and ks respectively. Also, to replace them with 'k' not only often loses meaning (and you're unlikely to be understood if you consistently replace all your clicks with 'k') but is offensive ("I can't be bothered to learn the proper name of your language, so I'll call it Koza") --Taejo 07:45, 15 July 2005 (UTC)


The IPA isn't very good at conveying the sound of the language---or even, really, how to pronounce Xhosa. Is anyone (or does anyone know) a native speaker and have access to a mic? There doesn't seem to be a place for speech sample requests for esoteric languages. grendel|khan 13:30, August 23, 2005 (UTC)

Please see Wikipedia:Requested recordingsfor more on this request. sample of a native speaker pronouncing the word 'Xhosa'
found some here Victor Grigas (talk) 05:17, 5 June 2015 (UTC)
xhosa story Ibali Xhosa

learning xhosa[edit]

xhosa is one of the african languages i'm attempting to learn. i've been listening to an xhosa audio course for... i think it's been several years now.

Gringo300 04:15, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

Xhosa pronounciation[edit]

As a native speaker of Xhosa (Gcaleka, Bomvana, Rharhabe and Mpondo dialects), I certainly agree that to replace Xhosa clicks with 'k' would simply make no meaning in the language or worst it could create great confusion as to the intended message. One simply has to learn to pronounce the 'q', 'x' and 'c' and the combination of these consonants or at least try to be closer to the real sound. For those looking for help in pronounciation, I suggest to contact several South African universities with Xhosa departments e.g Fort Hare and Rhodes in the Eastern Cape Province or Cape Town and Western Cape in the Western Cape province.

Lastly, the language the amaXhosa speak is referred to as isiXhosa. Only English speakers refer to it as 'Xhosa'. The name of a language is not conjugated in English but of course it also is in a few cases. So to say that "Bathetha isiXhosa" can be directly translated as "They speak the Xhosa language" or "Uthetha isiNgesi" as "She or he speaks the English language" Zintatu, 03 november 2005213.209.160.58 10:05, 3 November 2005 (UTC)

Long vowels[edit]

Long vowels are phonemic, but are usually not written, except for â.

I've never seen a diacritic in written Xhosa, except in a dictionary (where they indicate tone). Doubling a letter indicates length, but is only ever used in the noun prefixes oo- (class 2a) and ii- (class 10). So I've changed it. --Taejo | Talk 12:15, 5 November 2005 (UTC)

English pronunciation of the name[edit]

How is the name "Xhosa" usually pronounced by English speakers? It would be useful to have this detail in the introductory paragraph. Cheers. Ben Arnold 23:27, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

Well that depends. In South Africa, English-speakers usually say it (or attempt to!) how native speakers say it, with the click (although without the isi- as has been mentioned). Many older South Africans pronounce it 'koza', but most young English-speakers feel that that is lazy and disrespectful. Joziboy 25 Feb 2006, 11:05 UTC
Many English-speakers find it easy enough to pronounce the three principal click sounds, denoted by x, c and q, in isolation, when they are explained or demonstrated by a Xhosa-(or Zulu-)speaker. However, where they often struggle is to incorporate the clicks into a train of speech. There is good reason for this - the clicks are made with a drawing-in of breath, unlike standard consonents, which are exhalatory. Unpractised people generally find it tricky and counter-intuitive to break the generally exhalatory pattern of speaking with an inhalatory click-sound, particularly with a "breathy" language like English. Once the drawing-in nature of the click sounds is understood, people often find it easier to pronounce the clicks within a phrase.
&cet.Brockle 12:25, 16 April 2007 (UTC)
But the struggle to incorporate new sounds is a struggle or a problem in all languages that we are not accustomed to speaking. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:18, 24 February 2008 (UTC)

Star Trek reference[edit]

I've removed the following text: "In the fictional Star Trek universe, a freighter is named after the language."

It's a link to an off-site wiki, and not being familiar with the show, it just feels crufty to mention it anywhere in this article, especially the lead paragraph! Graham talk 10:12, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

Totally agree; thanks for removing that cruft. — mark 11:49, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

name; phonemes[edit]

I never got far with my Xhosa, but my impression was that ngx etc. were prenasalized, not nasalized. Can anyone verify?

kwami 21:01, 6 May 2007 (UTC)


There is a Xhosa translator which enables you to translate English sentences to Xhosa, Xhosa sentences to English.

Old English to Xhosa translator

English to Xhosa translator

Original Xhosa to English translator

New Xhosa to English translator (which it is under heavy construction)

Regards, --Blake3522 02:52, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

Can anyone please replace the sound sample?[edit]

Lots of noise as if an old cassette recorder was used and other stuff not belonging to the actual pronunciation. Or cut the sample (can't edit .ogg here) -andy (talk) 21:38, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

Derogatory terms should include qualifier[edit]

Kaffer, Caffre, and Cafre are very derogatory terms, and I would say obsolete ways to refer to the language (having adapted a more general meaning of "black people," and equivalent to the n word in America). I understand if we want the article to include these terms, as historically the word Kaffer was used by European settlers to refer to the language, but there should be a qualifer. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:47, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

place of articulation[edit]

In the second paragragh, I changed "q" to refer to palatal rather than alveloar clicks. This is correctly described in the table under the heading "Consonants", however. Ake Torngren (talk) 13:05, 23 May 2008 (UTC)

While I do not know Xhosa well, I believe it is in fact a post-alveolar click and not a palatal. The IPA symbol [!] is the post-alveolar while the palatal is [ǂ]. So either the second paragraph is wrong or the consonantal inventory is. I will change the second paragraph back post-alveolar. Theoretick (talk) 18:13, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
I disagree, and believe it is the lateral click, but I'm unsure. David Spector (talk) 12:52, 11 December 2013 (UTC)

To reference a strange looking old brit who imposed the bible on native peoples alongside Nelson Mandela makes for an odd set of photographic references. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:10, 31 March 2012 (UTC)

Might be odd to some, but it's very relevant to the article. David Spector (talk) 12:52, 11 December 2013 (UTC)

Xhosa has [!], not [ǂ]. The names for these vary in the lit, which is where the confusion probably comes in. Currently, phonologists seem to have settled on "(post)alveolar" and "palatal", respectively, but they are problematic because they don't correspond well to the places of pulmonic consonants. — kwami (talk) 21:37, 11 December 2013 (UTC)

WP:SAFRICA assessment[edit]

Assessed as C-Class. Falls short of B-Class on a few issues, take a look at the assessment guidelines for ideas on improving the article. Good luck! Ron2K (talk) 20:18, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

John Bennie[edit]

Should we not add a section on the work of Missionary John Bennie who played an important role in the development of the writen form of the language. "Brownlee was joined in November 1821 by two Scottish missionaries, W.R. Thomson and John Bennie. Bennie set himself to learning Dutch, and then turned to Xhosa, ʻreducing to form and rule this language which hitherto floated in the wind,ʼ as he put it.5 When a printing press arrived at Tyhume with John Ross in December 1823, Bennie was ready with his transcription of the Xhosa language: three days after its arrival, on 19 December 1823, the first sheets of printed Xhosa emerged from the press." as far as this shows, Bennie was the first person to print the Xhosa language and also played a role in the development of the writen language "The Presbyterian missionary John Bennie wrote the first Xhosa vocabulary list in 1824. Bennie’s work set the scene for the establishment of a printing press, which later became known as the Lovedale Press. Through this press isiXhosa had, by the early twentieth century, established the strongest African language literary tradition in the country." see the section on John Bennie --Scottykira (talk) 13:20, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Minor issue[edit]

The 7.9 million people, is linked to Xhosa, I am sure sure (as they say in SA) that that 7.9 is not exclusively Xhosa ethnic group. there must be an easy link to the fact that it is the native language of Xhosa people and in the first line have a link to that article. BUt I have just noticed other language do not follow this convention. except Hebrew Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, --Halqh حَلَقَة הלכהሐላቃህ (talk) 18:54, 19 November 2011 (UTC)