Home Niger-Congo Setswana Language

Setswana Language

Setswana Language
Photo by Pixabay.com

The Setswana language, also known as Tswana, Beetjuans, Chuana, Coana, Cuana, and Sechuana, is a Bantu language belonging to the Niger-Congo language family within the Sotho-Tswana branch. The language is closely related to such languages as Northern and Southern Sotho, Kgalagadi and Lozi. In the Southern Africa, there are about 5 million Setswana speakers.

Sestwana is considered to be an official language of Botswana. The most of Setswana speakers live in the South Africa and Botswana. There are about 4 million speakers in the region. About 63% of the language speakers can be found in the North West and about 11% are in Gauteng. About 10 thousands of speakers can also be found in such African countries as Zimbabwe and Namibia.

The first description of the Sestsawa language was published in 1930 by the German traveler H. Lichtenstein.  It is worth to mention that the description was made at the time he lived among the Tswana people in 1806, so it took more than a hundred years before his work was published. Also, it is worth to note that H. Lichtenstein mistakenly regarded the language as a dialect of Xhosa. Furthermore, according to H. Lichtenstein, the name,e of the Setswana language was Beetjuana and it covered the Northern and Southern Sotho languages.

In 1826, the first major work of the Setswana language, Bechuana Spelling Book and A Bechuana Catechism, was created by the British missionary who has lived among the Setswana speakers –  Robert Moffat. In 1857 he also published several other books, including a complete translation of the Bible.

In 1833, the first book of the Setswana grammar was published by the missionary James Archbell. Nevertheless, the book did not separate the Setswana language from the Xhosa language. So in 1841, the first grammar of Tswana which regarded it as a separate language from Xhosa was published by the French missionary E. Casalis. Nevertheless, the language was still not separated from the Northern and Southern Sotho languages. The separation was made only in 1882.

The first writer who used Setswana language and wrote about it was the South African intellectual and linguist Solomon Plaatje. He was born in 1876.