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Northern Sotho language

Northern sotho
Native to South Africa
Region Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga
Native speakers
4.7 million (2011 census)
9.1 million L2 speakers (2002)
  • Pedi (Masemola, Tau, Kone)
  • Lobedu (Kgaga)
  • Gananwa (Tlokwa)
  • Kopa (Ndebele-Sotho)
  • Birwa
  • Tswapong
  • ? Phalaborwa
  • ? Kutswe (East Sotho)
  • ? Pai (East Sotho)
  • ? Pulana (East Sotho)
Latin (Sotho alphabet)
Sotho Braille
Signed Pedi
Official status
Official language in
South Africa
Regulated by Pan South African Language Board
Language codes
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3 Variously:
nso – Pedi etc.
brl – Birwa
two – Tswapong
Glottolog nort3233  (North Sotho + South Ndebele)
Person Mopedi
People Bapedi
Language Sepedi

Northern Sotho (Sesotho sa Leboa, also known by the name of its standardised dialect Sepedi or Pedi) is a Bantu language spoken primarily in South Africa, where it is one of the 11 official languages. According to the 2011 census it was the first language of 4,618,576 people in South Africa, principally in the provinces of Limpopo, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

Urban varieties of Northern Sotho, such as Pretoria Sotho (actually a derivative of Tswana), have acquired clicks in an ongoing process of such sounds spreading from Nguni languages.

Northern Sotho is one of the Sotho languages of the Bantu family. Northern Sotho is thus most closely related to Sesotho (Southern Sotho), Setswana, sheKgalagari and siLozi. It has several distinct varieties.

Lobedu (also Khilovedu or Selobedu) exists only in an unwritten form, and the standard Northern Sotho language and orthography is usually used for teaching and writing by this language community. The monarch associated with this language community is Queen Modjadji (also known as the Rain Queen). Lobedu is spoken mainly in the area of Modjadjiskloof in the Limpopo Province. Its speakers are known as the Balobedu.



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