Northern Sotho (Sesotho sa Leboa), also known by the name of its standardised dialect version Sepedi (or Pedi) is a Bantu language spoken primarily in South Africa, where it is one of the 11 official languages. According to the 2011 census it was the first language of 4,618,576 people in South Africa, principally in the provinces of Limpopo, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.
|Sesotho sa Leboa|
|Native to||South Africa|
|Region||Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga|
|4.7 million (2011 census)|
9.1 million L2 speakers (2002)
|Latin (Sotho alphabet)|
Official language in
|Regulated by||Pan South African Language Board|
Although Northern Sotho shares the name Sotho with Southern Sotho, the two groups have less in common with each other than they have with Setswana.
Until recently, Lobedu (also Khilovedu or Khelobedu) used to exist only in an unwritten form, and the standard Northern Sotho language and orthography was usually used for teaching and writing by this language community. As of 2018, a Khilovedu dictionary is being compiled in addition to proper Khilovedu orthography which is also in the process of being developed.
The monarch associated with this language community is Queen Modjadji (also known as the Rain Queen). Lobedu is spoken by a majority of people in the Greater Tzaneen, Greater Letaba, and BaPhalaborwa municipalities, and a minority in Greater Giyani municipality, as well as in the Limpopo Province and Tembisa township in Gauteng. Its speakers are known as the Balobedu.
Northen Sotho is also spoken by the Mohlala people.
Northern Sotho is often equated with the dialect it is primarily based on, Sepedi, and continued to be known as Pedi or Sepedi for some years after the new South African constitution appeared. However, the Pan South African Language Board and the Northern Sotho National Lexicography Unit now specifically endorse the names Northern Sotho or Sesotho sa Leboa.
The original confusion arose from the fact that the (now official) Northern Sotho written language was based largely on the Sepedi dialect (from which missionaries first developed the orthography), but has subsequently provided a common writing system for 20 or more varieties of the Sotho-Tswana languages spoken in the former Transvaal. The name Sepedi thus refers specifically to the dialect of the Pedi people, while Northern Sotho refers to the official language of that name and to all the speech varieties it has been taken to cover.
The English version of the Constitution of South Africa refers to the language as "Sepedi". Its official translation into the language refers to it as "Sesotho sa Leboa" in the article about languages, but as "Sepedi" on the front page.
Apart from the Sepedi dialect itself, other languages or dialects covered by the term "Northern Sotho" appear to be a diverse grouping of communal speech-forms within the Sotho-Tswana group. They are apparently united by the fact that they are classifiable neither as Southern Sotho nor as Tswana.
Very little published information is available on these other dialects of Northern Sotho, but these have been reported:
The morphological and possible lexical variation among these dialects has led to the above assertion that 'Northern Sotho' is no more than a holding category for otherwise unclassified Sotho-Tswana varieties spoken in north-eastern South Africa. Maho (2002) leaves SePhalaborwa and the "East Sotho" varieties of SeKutswe, SePai, and SePulana unclassified within Sotho–Tswana. Their precise classification would appear to be a matter for further research.
Northern Sotho is written in the Latin alphabet. The letter š is used to represent the sound [ʃ] ("sh" is used in the trigraph "tsh" to represent an aspirated ts sound). The circumflex accent can be added to the letters e and o to distinguish their different sounds, but it is mostly used in language reference books. Some word prefixes, especially in verbs, are written separately from the stem.
Within nasal consonant compounds, the first nasal consonant sound is recognized as syllabic. Words such as nthuša "help me", are pronounced as [n̩tʰuʃa]. /n/ can also be pronounced as /ŋ/ following a velar consonant.
Some examples of Northern Sotho words and phrases:
|Welcome||Kamogelo (noun) / Amogela (verb)|
|Good day / Hello||Dumela (singular) / Dumelang (plural) / Thobela and Re a lotšha (to elders)|
|How are you?||O kae? (singular) Le kae? (plural, also used for elders)|
|I am fine||Ke gona.|
|I am fine too, thank you||Le nna ke gona, ke a leboga.|
|Thank you||Ke a leboga (I thank you) / Re a leboga (we thank you)|
|Have a safe journey||O be le leeto le le bolokegilego|
|Good bye!||Šala gabotse (singular)/ Šalang gabotse (plural, also used for elders)(keep well) / Sepela gabotse(singular)/Sepelang gabotse (plural, also used for elders)(go well)|
|I am looking for a job||Ke nyaka mošomô|
|No smoking||Ga go kgogwe (/folwe)|
|No entrance||Ga go tsenwe|
|Beware of the steps!||Hlokomela disetepese!|
|Congratulations on your birthday||Mahlatse letšatšing la gago la matswalo|
|Seasons greetings||Ditumedišo tša Sehla sa Maikhutšo|
|Merry Christmas||Mahlogonolo a Keresemose|
|Merry Christmas and Happy New Year||Mahlogonolo a Keresemose le ngwaga wo moswa wo monate|
|Expression||Gontsha sa mafahleng|
|thank you||ke a leboga|
|I am sorry||Ke maswabi|
|I love you||Ke a go rata|
|Questions / sentences||Dipotšišo / mafoko|
|Do you accept (money/credit cards/traveler's cheques)?||O amogela (singular) / Le
amogela ( tshelete/.../...)?
|How much is this?||Ke bokae e?|
|I want ...||Ke nyaka...|
|What are you doing?||O dira eng?|
|What is the time?||Ke nako mang?|
|Where are you going?||O ya kae?|
|2||two – pedi|
|3||three – tharo|
|4||four – nne|
|5||five – hlano|
|6||six – tshela|
|7||seven – šupa|
|8||eight – seswai|
|9||nine – senyane|
|10||ten – lesome|
|11||eleven – lesometee|
|12||twelve – lesomepedi|
|13||thirteen – lesometharo|
|14||fourteen – lesomenne|
|15||fifteen – lesomehlano|
|20||twenty – masomepedi|
|21||twenty one – masomepedi-tee|
|22||twenty two – masomepedi-pedi|
|50||fifty – masomehlano|
|100||hundred – lekgolo|
|1000||thousand – sekete|
|Days of the week||Matšatši a beke|
|Months of the year||Dikgwedi tša ngwaga|
|Computers and Internet terms||Didirishwa tsa khomphutha le Inthanete|
|computer||sebaledi / khomphutara|
|e-mail address||aterese ya imeile|
|Internet café||khefi ya Inthanete|
|website address||aterese ya weposaete|
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mentioned in the
Note: The Guthrie classification is geographic and its groupings do not imply a relationship between the languages within them.