Swazi language

The Swazi, Swati or siSwati language (Swazi: siSwati) (pronounced [siswatʼi]) is a Bantu language of the Nguni group spoken in Eswatini and South Africa by the Swazi people. The number of speakers is estimated to be in the region of 12 million. The language is taught in Eswatini and some South African schools in Mpumalanga, particularly former KaNgwane areas. Swazi is an official language of Eswatini (along with English), and is also one of the eleven official languages of South Africa.

Although the preferred term is "siSwati" among native speakers, in English it is generally referred to as Swazi. Swazi is most closely related to the other Tekela languages, like Phuthi and Northern Transvaal (Sumayela) Ndebele, but is also very close to the Zunda languages: Zulu, Southern Ndebele, Northern Ndebele, and Xhosa.

Native toEswatini, South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique
Native speakers
2.3 million (2006–2011)[1]
2.4 million L2 speakers in South Africa (2002)[2]
Latin (Swazi alphabet)
Swazi Braille
Signed Swazi
Official status
Official language in
 South Africa
Language codes
ISO 639-1ss
ISO 639-2ssw
ISO 639-3ssw
The Swazi Language
South Africa 2011 Swazi speakers proportion map
Geographical distribution of Swazi in South Africa: proportion of the population that speaks Swazi at home.
South Africa 2011 Swazi speakers density map
Geographical distribution of Swazi in South Africa: density of Swazi home-language speakers.


Swazi spoken in Eswatini can be divided into four dialects corresponding to the four administrative regions of the country: Hhohho, Lubombo, Manzini, and Shiselweni.

Swazi has at least two varieties: the standard, prestige variety spoken mainly in the north, centre and southwest of the country, and a less prestigious variety spoken elsewhere.

In the far south, especially in towns such as Nhlangano and Hlatikhulu, the variety of the language spoken is significantly influenced by isiZulu. Many Swazis (plural emaSwati, singular liSwati), including those in the south who speak this variety, do not regard it as 'proper' Swazi. This is what may be referred to as the second dialect in the country. The sizeable number of Swazi speakers in South Africa (mainly in the Mpumalanga province, and in Soweto) are considered by Eswatini Swazi speakers to speak a non-standard form of the language.

Unlike the variant in the south of Eswatini, the Mpumalanga variety appears to be less influenced by Zulu, and is thus considered closer to standard Swazi. However, this Mpumalanga variety is distinguishable by distinct intonation, and perhaps distinct tone patterns. Intonation patterns (and informal perceptions of 'stress') in Mpumalanga Swazi are often considered discordant to the Swazi ear. This South African variety of Swazi is considered to exhibit influence from other South African languages spoken close to Swazi.

A feature of the standard prestige variety of Swazi (spoken in the north and centre of Eswatini) is the royal style of slow, heavily stressed enunciation, which is anecdotally claimed to have a 'mellifluous' feel to its hearers.



Swazi vowels
Front Back
Close i u
Mid ɛ ɔ
Open a


Swazi does not distinguish between places of articulation in its clicks. They are dental (as [ǀ]) or might also be alveolar (as [ǃ]). It does, however, distinguish five or six manners of articulation and of manner, including tenuis, aspirated, voiced, breathy voiced, nasal, and breathy-voiced nasal.[5]

Swazi consonants
Labial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Velar Glottal
central nasal central nasal
Click plain ǀ ᵑǀ
aspirated ǀʰ ᵑǀʰ
breathy ᶢǀʱ ᵑǀʱ
Nasal plain m n ɲ ŋ, ŋɡ
breathy n̤ʱ ndʒʱ
Stop ejective k̬, kʼ
breathy mɓ, mbʱ ɡʱ
implosive ɓ
Affricate voiceless tf tsʼ, tsʰ kʼˡ
voiced dv dz dʒʱ
Fricative voiceless f s ɬ ʃ h
breathy ɮ ʒ ɦ
Approximant w l j

The consonants /ts k ŋɡ mb/ each have two sounds. /ts/ and /k/ can both occur as ejective sounds, [tsʼ] and [kʼ], but their common forms are [tsʰ] and [k̬]. The sounds of /ŋɡ/ and /mb/ differ when at the beginning of stems as [ŋ] and [mbʱ], and commonly as [ŋɡ] and [mɓ] within words.[5]


Swazi exhibits three surface tones: high, mid and low. Tone is unwritten in the standard orthography. Traditionally, only the high and mid tones are taken to exist phonemically, with the low tone conditioned by a preceding depressor consonant. Bradshaw (2003) however argues that all three tones exist underlyingly.

Phonological processes acting on tone include:

  • When a stem with non-high tone receives a prefix with underlying high tone, this high tone moves to the antepenult (or to the penult, when the onset of the antipenult is a depressor).
  • High spread: all syllables between two high tones become high, as long as no depressor intervenes. This happens not only word-internally, but also across a word boundary between a verb and its object.

The depressor consonants are all voiced obstruents other than /ɓ/. The allophone [ŋ] of /ŋɡ/ appears to behave as a depressor for some rules but not others.[6]



The Swazi noun (libito) consists of two essential parts, the prefix (sicalo) and the stem (umsuka). Using the prefixes, nouns can be grouped into noun classes, which are numbered consecutively, to ease comparison with other Bantu languages.

The following table gives an overview of Swazi noun classes, arranged according to singular-plural pairs.

Class Singular Plural
1/2 um(u)-1 ba-, be-
1a/2a Ø- bo-
3/4 um(u)-1 imi-
5/6 li- ema-
7/8 s(i)-2 t(i)-2
9/10 iN-3 tiN-3
11/10 lu-, lw-
14 bu-, b-, tj-
15 ku-
17 ku-

1 umu- replaces um- before monosyllabic stems, e. g. umuntfu (person).

2 s- and t- replace si- and ti- respectively before stems beginning with a vowel, e.g. sandla/tandla (hand/hands).

3 The placeholder N in the prefixes iN- and tiN- for m, n or no letter at all.


Verbs use the following affixes for the subject and the object:

Prefix Infix
1st sing. ngi- -ngi-
2nd sing. u- -wu-
1st plur. si- -si-
2nd plur. ni- -ni-
1 u- -m(u)-
2 ba- -ba-
3 u- -m(u)-
4 i- -yi-
5 li- -li-
6 a- -wa-
7 si- -si-
8 ti- -ti-
9 i- -yi-
10 ti- -ti-
11 lu- -lu-
14 bu- -bu-
15 ku- -ku-
17 ku- -ku-
reflexive -ti-


Months in Swazi/Swati:

English Swazi/Swati
January uBhimbidvwane
February iNdlovana
March iNdlovulenkulu
April uMabasa
May iNkhwenkhweti
June Nhlaba
July uKholwane
August iNgci
September iNyoni
October iMphala
November Lweti
December iNgongoni

Sample text

The following example of text is Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Bonkhe bantfu batalwa bakhululekile balingana ngalokufananako ngesitfunti nangemalungelo. Baphiwe ingcondvo nekucondza kanye nanembeza ngakoke bafanele batiphatse nekutsi baphatse nalabanye ngemoya webuzalwane.[7][8]

The Declaration reads in English:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."[9]


  1. ^ Swazi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Webb, Vic. 2002. "Language in South Africa: the role of language in national transformation, reconstruction and development." Impact: Studies in language and society, 14:78
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Swati". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  5. ^ a b Taljaard, Khumalo, Bosch, van Schaik (1991) Handbook of SiSwati
  6. ^ Bradshaw, Mary M. (2003). "Consonant-tone interaction in Siswati". 음성음운형태론연구. 9 (2): 277–294. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  7. ^ "Swati alphabet, prounciation and language". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 June 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Eatoni.com
  9. ^ "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". En.wikisource.org. Retrieved 20 December 2018.

External links


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Department of Defence (South Africa)

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As of June 2012 the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans was Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Department of Environmental Affairs

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Department of International Relations and Cooperation

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) is the foreign ministry of the South African government. It is responsible for South Africa's relationships with foreign countries and international organizations, and runs South Africa's diplomatic missions. The department is headed by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, currently Naledi Pandor.

Formerly known as the Department of Foreign Affairs, it was renamed the Department of International Relations and Cooperation by President Jacob Zuma in May 2009. In the 2010 national budget, it received an appropriation of 4,824.4 million rand, and had 4,533 employees.

Department of Labour (South Africa)

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As of 29 May 2019 the Minister of Employment and Labour is Thembelani Thulas Nxesi. In the 2011/12 budget the department had a budget of R1,981 million and a staff complement of 3,490 civil servants.

Department of Police (South Africa)

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Department of Public Enterprises

The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) is one of the ministries of the South African government. It is the governments shareholder representative with oversight responsibility for a number of state-owned enterprises (SoEs).

Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa

The Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa is a judge in the Constitutional Court of South Africa and the second-highest judicial post in the Republic of South Africa, after the Chief Justice. The post, originally called "Deputy President of the Constitutional Court", was created in September 1995 by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Second Amendment Act, 1995, which was an amendment to the Interim Constitution. The position was retained by the final Constitution which came into force in February 1997. In November 2001 the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of South Africa restructured the judiciary, and the post was renamed to "Deputy Chief Justice".The first Deputy President of the Constitutional Court was Ismail Mahomed. In 1997 he became Chief Justice, and was replaced by Pius Langa, who continued as Deputy Chief Justice after 2001. Justice Langa was elevated to Chief Justice in 2005, and succeeded by Dikgang Moseneke. Moseneke retired on 20 May 2016.

Law enforcement in Eswatini

Law enforcement in Eswatini is the primarily the responsibility of the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS; Swazi: Silihawu Lembube NeSive), which oversees internal security as well as border and customs control, and His Majesty's Correctional Services (HMCS), which is tasked with maintaining and guarding prisons. It is estimated that about 35% of Government of Eswatini employees work in the security services. The country has been part of INTERPOL since October 1975 and the organization has an office in the capital of Eswatini, Mbabane.

List of prime ministers of Eswatini

This is a list of Prime Ministers of Eswatini (Swazi: Ndvunankhulu) since the formation of the post of Prime Minister of Eswatini in 1967, to the present day.

A total of nine people have served as Prime Minister of Eswatini (not counting six Acting Prime Ministers). Additionally, one person, Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, has served on two non-consecutive occasions.

The current Prime Minister of Eswatini is Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, since 29 October 2018.

Local municipality (South Africa)

In South Africa, a local municipality (Tswana: mmasepalaselegae; Sotho: masepala wa lehae; Northern Sotho: mmasepala wa selegae; Afrikaans: plaaslike munisipaliteit; Zulu: umasipala wendawo; Southern Ndebele: umasipaladi wendawo; Xhosa: umasipala wengingqi; Swazi: masipaladi wasekhaya; Venda: masipalawapo; Tsonga: masipala wa muganga) or Category B municipality is a type of municipality that serves as the third, and most local, tier of local government. Each district municipality is divided into a number of local municipalities, and responsibility for municipal affairs is divided between the district and local municipalities. There are 226 local municipalities in South Africa.

A local municipality may include rural areas as well as one or more towns or small cities. In larger urban areas there are no district or local municipalities, and a metropolitan municipality is responsible for all municipal affairs.


Mbabane (; Swazi: ÉMbábáne, IPA: [ɛ́ᵐbʱáɓánɛ]) is the capital and largest city in Eswatini. With an estimated population of 94,874 (2010), it is located on the Mbabane River and its tributary the Polinjane River in the Mdzimba Mountains. It is located in the Hhohho Region, of which it is also the capital. The average elevation of the city is 1243 meters. It lies on the MR3 road.


Mpumalanga ( (listen); Swazi, Zulu: iMpumalanga; Tsonga: Mpumalanga; Southern Ndebele: IMpumalanga; Northern Sotho, Afrikaans, Southern Sotho: Mpumalanga) is a province of South Africa. The name means "east", or literally "the place where the sun rises" in the Swazi, Xhosa, Ndebele and Zulu languages. Mpumalanga lies in eastern South Africa, bordering Eswatini and Mozambique. It constitutes 6.5% of South Africa's land area. It shares borders with the South African provinces of Limpopo to the north, Gauteng to the west, the Free State to the southwest, and KwaZulu-Natal to the south. The capital is Mbombela.

Municipalities of South Africa

Local government in South Africa consists of municipalities (Tswana: bommasepala; Sotho: bomasepala; Northern Sotho: bommasepala; Afrikaans: munisipaliteite; Zulu: ngomasipala; Southern Ndebele: bomasipala; Xhosa: ngoomasipala; Swazi: bomasipala; Venda: vhomasipala; Tsonga: vamasipala) of various types. The largest metropolitan areas are governed by metropolitan municipalities, while the rest of the country is divided into district municipalities, each of which consists of several local municipalities. After the municipal election of 18 May 2011 there were eight metropolitan municipalities, 44 district municipalities and 226 local municipalities. Since the boundary reform at the time of the municipal election of 3 August 2016 there are eight metropolitan municipalities, 44 district municipalities and 205 local municipalities.Municipalities are governed by municipal councils which are elected every five years. The councils of metropolitan and local municipalities are elected by a system of mixed-member proportional representation, while the councils of district municipalities are partly elected by proportional representation and partly appointed by the councils of the constituent local municipalities.

Nkulunkulu Mnikati wetibusiso temaSwati

"Nkulunkulu Mnikati wetibusiso temaSwati" is the national anthem of Eswatini. It is a compromise between Swazi and western styles of music, and was adopted after independence in 1968. The lyrics were authored by Fanyana Simelane, and the composer of the tune was David Rycroft.

Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet (South Africa)

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In his capacity of DA leader, Mmusi Maimane leads the Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet. Elected alongside Maimane was John Steenhuisen, as Chief Whip, and Anchen Dreyer as Chairperson of the Caucus.

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The Office for Health Standards and Compliance was established in 2014.

South African Reserve Bank

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Unlike the Bank of England, which provided the model for establishing the SARB, the SARB is privately owned.

Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), formerly known as the Appellate Division, is an appellate court in South Africa. It is located in Bloemfontein.

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