Language Variety in Sesotho

Firstly it is important to keep in mind that Sesotho is part of the Sotho language subgroup together with Setswana (also known as Tswana or Western Sotho) and Sesotho sa Leboa (also known as Northern Sotho or by the dialect name Sepedi).

In terms of dialects the following varieties of Sesotho exist: Sekwena, Sephuthi, Setlokwa and Setaung in the central region; Sekgolokwe in the north eastern region as well as Serotse (Selozi). Yet it can be said that a degree of uniformity exist due to the isolation of the Sesotho language communities - especially in Lesotho.

Furthermore two forms of orthographical representation are used for Sesotho: South African Sesotho (SASe) and the Sesotho of Lesotho (LSe). This website mainly uses the South African Sesotho orthography. Here are some examples that show how the two orthographies differ:



bontate bo-ntate fathers
dumela lumela hello
dula lula sit
mosadi mosali woman
kgotso khotso peace
kgwedi khoeli month
Ke a bona. Kea bona. I see.
mme 'me mother
nna ke 'na ke I am ...
tjhelete chelete money
titjhere tichere teacher
watjhe oache watch
kutlwisiso kutloisiso understanding
wena uena you
O phela jwang? U phela joang? How are you?
O ya kae? O ea kae? Where is he/she going?
nwa noa drink
nkwe nkoe leopard
morutwa morutuoa student
tsamaya tsamaea go
yohle eohle all

In 1945 J.M. Nhlapo suggested a common orthography for Sotho - not only within the Sesotho language but for all the Sotho languages (including Northern Sotho and Setswana). Yet this unified or harmonised Sotho never realised.

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J. Olivier (2009)