• Thapelo Otlogetswe
  • Andy Chebanne


The Setswana language belongs to the Sotho group of languages, classified under the Bantu Zone S30. It is spoken by about ten million speakers in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Setswana, because of its widespread use in Botswana, has been accepted as a national and official language in policy and practice. In South Africa, it is one of the 11 national and official languages. In the pre-independence South Africa, it was a national and official language of Bophuthatswana. The Zimbabwean constitution recognises Setswana as an official language, while the Namibian constitution indicates Setswana as a national ethnic language. With these regional legal and policy recognitions, Setswana is increasingly intervening in administrative and social spheres as the language of interethnic communication and a facilitator in the political spheres. It is one of the languages that have been selected for purposes of development and promotion by the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN), an arm of the Social Affairs Commission of the African Union. The ACALAN believes that African languages that have wide geographical spread and are used across borders can improve communication, enhance trade and facilitate enjoyment of cultural ties. The development of Setswana can be explained from history. It was the first southern African language to be codified and used in the missionary Bible translation and missionary education. From the early 1800s, Setswana has had a steady development with much of the work on the language done by the missionaries and travellers. This chapter discusses the different domains of Setswana use, its dialectal varieties and the degree of its codification.


Setswana National language Southern Africa cross-border language Interethnic language ACALAN 



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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thapelo Otlogetswe
    • 1
  • Andy Chebanne
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BotswanaGaboroneBotswana

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