Sotho language

Spoken in

  • Niger - Congo languages Benue - Congo languages Bantoide languages Bantu languages Sotho - Tswana languages Sesotho




Sesotho ( Southern Sotho also or Southern Sotho ) is a particularly in the South African provinces of Free State and Gauteng spread ( with 8 % of South African population ) and in Lesotho Bantu language.

It is grouped with the Northern Sotho ( Sepedi ) and the Setswana to the subgroup of the Sotho languages. Sesotho is the Northern Sotho almost identical and closely related to Setswana. Similarity also with the Lozi, which is mainly spoken in Zambia.

  • 3.1 Nouns
  • 3.2 Adjectives
  • 3.3 verbs
  • 3.4 Other Words
  • 4.1 Text Examples


Sesotho comes as the other Sotho languages ​​from East Africa, where various Bantu peoples from the 16th century onwards to the south. They assimilated parts of the San, of which the Basotho took over the clicking sounds among others. The written language was introduced by European missionaries in the 19th century. Today, there are Sesotho lessons in schools in Lesotho and parts of South Africa, as well as newspapers, magazines and some literary works, among others, by Thomas Mofolo. The Verschriftung the language was promoted by the missionaries, as they could contribute to the spread of Christianity in the church. So the Bible was translated into Sesotho early.

In Lesotho, Sesotho is the official language in addition to English. The membership of almost all inhabitants to the people of the Basotho ( Lesother ) causes Sesotho is spoken throughout the country and not, as in South Africa, has the character of a regional language.

In Sesotho no dialects have developed. However, the spellings of the Sesotho in Lesotho and South Africa differ in some details.

Alphabet and Pronunciation

In Sesotho, the following points can be found:

  • A, b, c (in Lesotho and just as ch ), d ( only in South Africa ), e, f, g (only as ng or in loanwords such as Gauteng), h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, š, t, u, v ( only in loanwords such as veine, wine), w ( only in South Africa ), y ( in Lesotho only as ny).

Pronunciation of vowels

There are nine vowels i, ɪ, e, ɛ, u, ʊ, o ɔ, ɑ and.


Below the Lesotho form of Sesotho is considered. The debate is similar to the Germans, apart from some exceptions. The d is replaced by l in Lesotho Sesotho. Li and lu be so pronounced to you and you. The j is like the Polish dz (ie d followed by g as in box ) pronounced. The s is always sharp. The s can be pronounced by a t aspirated and then š written. The q is also available in two forms. Both are clicking sounds. The aspirated form is written here as qh. The q and qh can be combined with all five vowels and provides for the Europeans, the greatest difficulty in the pronunciation dar. Also, the p- volume is available as p and aspirated, as ph. The same applies to the t.

Special consonant combinations are finally hl (pronounced as chl ), tlh (about tl ), kh (such as ch in yet, corresponds to g in Gauteng), ng ( which occurs only at the end of a word ) and sh (about sch). ll, mm and nn are the only occurring double consonants. A letter in mm and nn can be replaced by an apostrophe. The word ' m'e (mother) are the two missing apostrophes for m, so that the word has three m succession. The multiple consonants are pronounced conspicuously long.

Diphthongs occur hardly. A double vowel is always for vowels in different syllables ( as Lekhooa, le- kho -oa ). Succession occurring different vowels ( as above ) are diphthongartig bound, approximately wa. The o and u as a single syllable differ in some words, especially on the pitch: the o is spoken above ( for example: kea rata u, i love you, and kea o rata, I love him / her ). All syllables, and thus all the words end in a vowel. Here ng is one next to a, e, i, o and u vowels. Beginning of a word or in the interior of a word can also m and n act as a vowel, as in Mpho, gift, and Linku, sheep.

All polysyllabic words are stressed on the penultimate syllable. Here ng counts as a syllable, that is, words like toropong be on the ( spoken) emphasizes the last syllable.



There are seven groups of nouns, six of which have a plural form. This plural form is formed by changing the prefix.

In some individuals names as Ntate, father, and ausi ​​, Sister, the plural forms are bo - formed by the prefix. These forms are like the first case declined, so bo - ba Ntate yes nama, the fathers eat meat.


Adjectives are formed principally analogous to the nouns. In the forms with li and without prefix but the basic form of the adjective is used, for example sefate se seholo, the big tree, likhomo tse Kholo, the great cattle.


The infinitive is formed with ho, to analogous to the English. As an example, ho will rata, love, like, used. The conjugation is for all persons (including singular and plural ) is equal.

  • The present tense is formed from the pronoun and the infinitive (without ho): kea rata, including rata, i love you love
  • The imperfect is formed with many verbs ending in ile, ie: ke ratile, u ratile, I loved, you loved.

Other Imperfektformen end on Etse, itse or tse, for example ke khathetse, I tired, but really: I'm tired.

Another imperfect shape is formed: ke ile ka rata, u ile ka rata, I loved, you loved.

  • The future tense is by adding tla (actually come ) is formed: ke tla rata, u tla rata, I will love you 'll love.
  • There are other times, for example il'o ke rata, u il'o rata, I will soon love, you'll love soon.
  • Passive forms are formed with the suffix - uoa, so ke ratuoa, u ratuoa, I am loved, you are loved.
  • For negation ha is set before the expression and the verb ending -e changed to the present tense: ke ha rate, ha u rate, I do not love, you do not love.
  • The imperative is formed from the infinitive (without ho) ( rata!, dear! ) The plural is formed by adding ' ng, so rata'ng, loves! . There are some exceptions and variations. So Mphe! , Give me (please ), more politely than MPHA! , Give me (of ho fa, give ).

A special feature is related verbs with different meanings. example:

  • Ho bona see
  • Ho Bonana, see each other ( in the sense of meet )
  • Ho ipona, see themselves ( in the sense of being vain )

Another special feature is the double verbs. ho feta means pass while ho feta feta is often called pass.

Other words

The personal pronouns are ke, u, o in the singular and re, le, ba in the plural. These pronouns are related only to humans. There they are, however, in a particular form, such as in French and Italian. Then she read ' na ( with long n ), una, EENA, rona, lona and bona.

Many question words end ng how mang? , Who neng, ?, When, and hobaneng? , Why. Of interest is the construction of two question words that are associated with kapa, or: mang mang kapa, anyone, neng neng kapa, sometime.


Most words come from the Bantu languages. Thus, there are similarities to the Swahili, which is spoken in East Africa. Ha ho na Mathata in Sesotho say hakuna matata in Swahili, in German: there are no problems. In addition, there are a number of European Sesotho and Afrikaans loanwords as katse ( cat), buka (Book ) fotobolo ( football), sekolo ( school) baesekele (bicycle, bicycle from ). Efforts are being made to transfer modern technical terms from English into Sesotho, for example junifesithi for university or university. Often these expressions, as well as the number of words, interwoven in English in normal conversation. Words and place names with click sounds seem to have been taken over by the San.

Text Examples

  • Lebitso la hau u mang? Name of you is who? (Actually, What is your name? )
  • Morena e Moholo ea o ka toropong bese. The old chief takes the bus ( bese ) in the city.
  • Bana ba ba rata sekolo lipalo. The school children like numbers ( ie: the mathematics ).
  • Ak'u Mphe liapole tse five. Give me five apples.
  • Paqama ke u qoqele moqoqo o qabolang. Ke tla o qalo qalong ke o qetelle qetellong. Ke tla o ka qala Qabane oa Quthing, ke o ka qetelle Nqoko oa Qoqolosing. Lie down on your face - I'll tell you a funny conversation ( ie: story). I'll start at the beginning and end at the end. I'll start with Qabane from Quthing and finish with Nqoko from Qoqolosing. ( This is a tongue twister with many click sounds. Generally, there are few such words in Sesotho. )