Southern Sotho - Sesotho

1.  Classification / Classification

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

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

Southern Sotho / Sotho proper is mainly spoken in the center of South Africa, and is the predominant language of Lesotho. (Webbook, with modifications)

A map from Wikipedia on left shows "Areas in which significant proportions of the population are Sesotho mother tongue speakers" follows (reproduced under a GNU Free Documentation License). A similar map with more detail is available on the Sesotho Online site at

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to Ethnologue:

  • 3,104,197 in South Africa (1996 census)
  • 1,770,000 in Lesotho (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk)
  • Population total all countries: 4,874,197

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)

Language varieties of this language include: Sekgolokwe, Sekwena, Serotse (Selozi) and Setlokwa. (

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Sotho is an official language in South Africa and Lesotho.

According to Ethnologue:

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

Sesotho is written with the Latin alphabet. Apparently this orthography uses no diacritics or extended characters [verify!]

According to, the standard orthographies in South Africa and Lesotho differ on some details. This is reflected in spelling conventions (see ).

A unified orthography for Sesotho, Sepedi and Tswana was proposed by J.M. Nhlapo in 1945, but never adopted. (

"The first written form of Sesotho was devised by Thomas Arbousset, Eugene Casalis and Constant Gosselin, French missionaries of the Paris Evangelical Mission who arrived in Lesotho in 1833." (Omniglot)

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

Two sites give examples of the alphabet (without explanation whether this applies to Lesotho or South Africa):

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

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

A standard Latin font useful for English will suffice.

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

An English keyboard or the South African keyboard can be used (verify re the English keyboard)

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

The South African language site "Batho Portal" has a section on & in "Sesotho."

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

The OpenOffice suite of software applications has been localized in Sesotho by See . Not aware of any effort to make a version for Lesotho.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

  • ISO 639-1: st
  • ISO 639-2: sot
  • ISO 639-3: sot

7.6  Other / Autre

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile "Sesotho (South Sotho)" page

9.  Comments / Remarques

This is a cross-border Southern African languages that could have localized versions for Lesotho as well as South Africa. It is not clear how much of a difficulty the different spelling conventions would pose, though these should not be any greater than what is encountered with cross-border languages elsewhere. In any event, if they are based on a common version - in this case the one done by - that would make it easier for the broader user community.

10.  References / Références

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

Omniglot, "Southern Sotho (seSotho),", "General Introduction,"

______, "Variants of Sesotho,"

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

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, "Sotho language,"

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Categories: Languages, South Africa, Lesotho