Northern Sotho - Sesotho sa Leboa

Sesotho sa Lebowa, Sepedi, Pedi

1.  Classification / Classification

Northern Sotho (S32), also known as Pedi, Sepedi or Transvaal Sotho is classified as: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, S, Sotho-Tswana (S.30), Sotho, Northern
(Webbook? and Ethnologue?)

According to "The 'official' Northern Sotho language attempts to encompass a collection of approximately 30 related dialects, all generally mutually intelligible, and all related to Sepedi, which specifically is the language of the Bapedi (Pedi people). Historically, what is now the official language has been based primarily on Sepedi, as the missionaries who developed the orthography mainly had contact with the Bapedi. The name 'Sepedi' thus came to be regarded, somewhat incorrectly, as being synonymous with 'Sesotho sa Leboa', and further confusion arose when the constitution cited "Sepedi" as being the official language. This is not strictly correct, as it would exclude other Northern Sotho dialects from official recognition. Thus when referring to the official language, it is preferable to use the term 'Sesotho sa Leboa' or 'Northern Sotho'. When referring to the language of the Bapedi, the correct term is 'Sepedi'."

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

Northern Sotho / Pedi / Sepedi / Transvaal Sotho, is spoken in northeastern South Africa (Transvaal). (Webbook, with modifications)

There are apparently some communities of Sepedi speakers in the Limpopo valley area of Zimbabwe [confirm?].

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to Ethnologue:

  • 3,695,846 in South Africa (1996 census)
  • Population total all countries: 3,709,717

Wikipedia cites the 2001 South African census figure of 4,208,980

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Although Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, and Tswana are considered to be three separate languages they are largely interintelligible. (Webbook and Ethnologue)

Northern Sotho dialects according Ethnologue:

  • Masemola (Masemula, Tau)
  • Kgaga (Kxaxa, Khaga)
  • Koni (Kone)
  • Tswene (Tsweni)
  • Gananwa (Xananwa, Hananwa)
  • Pulana
  • Phalaborwa (Phalaburwa, Thephalaborwa)
  • Khutswe (Khutswi, Kutswe)
  • Lobedu (Lubedu, Lovedu, Khelobedu)
  • Tlokwa (Tlokoa, Tokwa, Dogwa)
  • Pai
  • Dzwabo (Thabine-Roka-Nareng)
  • Kopa
  • Matlala-Moletshi
  • Dialects Pai, Kutswe, and Pulana are more divergent and sometimes called "Eastern Sotho"

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Northern Sotho is an official language of South Africa.

According to Ethnologue, Northern Sotho is taught in primary and secondary schools

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

There is a standardized Latin based orthography for Northern Sotho. It apparently uses some diacritics [more info]

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple


A sample text is shown on the "Language Museum" site at

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

A Latin font with the necessary extended range. [more info]

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

The South African keyboard at is designed for Northern Sotho and other South African languages.

7.3  Content on computers & internet / Contenu en informatique et sur l'Internet

The South African language site "Batho Portal" has a section on "Sesotho sa leboa."

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

The OpenOffice suite of software applications has been localized in Sepedi by See

There is a "Sesotho sa Leboa Spelling Checker 1.0 & Hyphenator" for Microsoft products for sale at

CTexT has developed a spellchecker and hyphenator for use with Microsoft Windows. See:

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

Sotho, Northern (Sepedi)

  • ISO 639-1: -
  • ISO 639-2: nso
  • ISO 639-3: nso

7.6  ''Locale / Locale

7.7  Other / Autre

Pukuntšu ya Sesotho sa Leboa - Seisimane [Sesotho sa Leboa (Northern Sotho) - English Dictionary]

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

9.  Comments / Remarques

10.  References / Références, "Sesotho sa Leboa (Northern Sotho),"

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, (page on "Sotho/Tswana," )

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Sotho, Northern,"

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables,"

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2: Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: Alpha-3 codes arranged alphabetically by the English name of language,"

Wikipedia, "Northern Sotho language,"

______, "Sepedi,"

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Categories: Languages, South Africa