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Tswana language

Native to Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia
Native speakers
4.1 million in South Africa (2011)
1.1 million in Botswana (1993)
unknown number in Zimbabwe
7.7 million L2 speakers in South Africa (2002)
Latin (Tswana alphabet)
Tswana Braille
Signed Tswana (South Africa)
Official status
Official language in
South Africa
Language codes
ISO 639-1 tn
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3
Glottolog tswa1253
Linguasphere 99-AUT-eg incl. varieties 99-AUT-ega to 99-AUT-egn
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
The Tswana Language
Person moTswana
People baTswana
Language seTswana
Country Botswana

The Tswana language, Setswana, is a language spoken in southern Africa by about five million people. It is a Bantu language belonging to the Niger–Congo language family within the Sotho languages branch of Zone S (S.30), and is closely related to the Northern- and Southern Sotho languages, as well as the Kgalagadi language and the Lozi language.

Tswana is an official language and lingua franca of Botswana. The majority of Tswana speakers are found in the north of South Africa, where four million people speak the language, and where an urbanised variety known as Pretoria Sotho is the principal language of that city. The two South African provinces with largest number of speakers are Gauteng Province (circa 11%) and North West Province (over 63%). Until 1994, South African Tswana people were notionally citizens of Bophuthatswana, one of the bantustans of the apartheid regime. Although Tswana language is significantly spoken in South Africa and Botswana, a small number of speakers are also found in Zimbabwe and Namibia, where respectively an unknown number of people and about 10,000 people speak the language.

The first European to describe the Tswana language was the German traveller H. Lichtenstein, who lived among the Tswana people Batlhaping in 1806, although his work was not published until 1930. He mistakenly regarded Tswana as a dialect of the Xhosa language, and the name he used for the language "Beetjuana" may also have covered the Northern- and Southern Sotho languages.



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