Xitsonga in South Africa

  • Ximbani Eric Mabaso


This chapter aims to provide a factual, socio-historical and linguistic description of the Xitsonga language—a cross-border language spoken among others, in South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Historically, many variously spelt names have been used to refer to this language, among them ‘XiTsonga’, ‘Shangaan’, ‘Changaan’, ‘Xichangana’, ‘Xichangani’, ‘Xitonga’, ‘Chitonga’ and ‘Xigwamba’. Very often these names are written without the prefix ‘Xi-’ in English texts. The chapter deals specifically with the Xitsonga within the geographic boundaries of the Republic of South Africa. It makes an attempt at advancing hypothetical and etymological explanations of the terms ‘Xitsonga’ and ‘Xichangana’ by highlighting differences and relations between them within the context of language versus dialect and in relation to its sister languages ‘Xitshwa’ and ‘Xirhonga’ as spoken in Mozambique. It provides some codes that are used to represent Xitsonga in different texts. Socially, it sheds light on relations between Vatsonga and fellow South African indigenous language speakers under the subtopics ‘ethnic prejudice’, ‘xenophobia’ and ‘Vatsonga’s reaction’. A self-reflection of the Vatsonga is also provided through the lens of some literary authors. The official status of Xitsonga in the new democracy is also sketched, with some reference to Language in Education Policy. The chapter also places into perspective the state of Xitsonga in terms of its writing system and standardisation processes; Xitsonga and the media; Xitsonga and technology as well as some aspects of Vatsonga culture. The research follows a socio-linguistic approach using both diachronic and synchronic analyses of literary sources as well as by observation.


Xitsonga Xichangana Xirhonga Xitshwa Language Dialect Standardisation Vatsonga culture 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ximbani Eric Mabaso
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of African LanguagesUniversity of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa

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