Sotho sa Leboa / Northern Sotho / Sepedi
South Africa is currently occupying a precarious position within a framework of globalisation and internationalisation where cultural and linguistic pluralism prevail. There is divergence between South Africa’s multilingual language policies on the one hand, and its language practices on the other. Although South Africa is in its 20th year of democracy, people are still grappling with issues such as the financial costs of using more than one official language in commerce and industry. Let’s look at the use (and growth) of one more of the 11 official languages – Sepedi.
Sotho sa Leboa is the fourth most common language in South Africa, spoken as a home language by 9.4% of the population (4,618,576 people), principally in the Northern provinces of South Africa namely: Limpopo, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. Northern Sotho is thus most closely related to Sesotho (Southern Sotho) and Setswana – forming the Sotho-language family.
Northern Sotho is based mainly on the Sepedi dialect of Sekhukhuneland. This is due to the activities of German missionaries in this area, whose work led to the publishing of the Bible in Sepedi. Later on, the written language of that time was used more widely, with other dialects also contributing to its development. Presently, standardised Northern Sotho, which is still based on Sepedi, also reflects influences of other dialects. Some people still refer to Northern Sotho as Sepedi but, since not all speakers of this language like to use this term, it is the safest to refer to it as ‘Sesotho sa Leboa’ (source: UNISA website).