The Linguistic Situation of South Africa

Topics: South Africa, Languages of South Africa, Zulu language Pages: 3 (800 words) Published: February 26, 2002
When it comes to linguistics, South Africa is like a melting pot of languages. In total, South Africa has eleven major languages coming from both Africa and Europe. The major languages used are Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sesotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. In order to understand how each of these languages arrived in South Africa, we must first look at the history of people living in the country. The first identified language spoken in the South Africa was Khoisan. This language was spoken by the indigenous people of South Africa, the Khoikhio, who lived mainly in the southern coastal regions of the country. Over the years this language has slowly faded away along with the native Khoikhio people. Today there are only a few native South Africans left who can still speak Khoisan living in the western sections of the country.

Some time around the eighth century many Bantu tribes migrated south from central Africa into the northern territories of South Africa. Each of these Bantu tribes brought with them their own distinct Bantu language—nine of which still remain and are recognized today as official languages by the South African Government. These languages are used throughout the African population, which makes up three quarters of South Africa's people. These languages include: Sesotho, Tsonga, Pedi, Tswana, Venda; and the Nguni group of Bantu languages: Xhosa, Ndebele, Swazi, and Zulu.

In the present, Zulu is the Bantu language with the largest number of speakers. In KwaZulu and Natal there are nine million people that speak this language. Falling right behind with seven million speakers is the language of Xhosa. Xhosa can be found around Transei, Ciskei, and on the Eastern Cape. The official language of Swaziland is Swazi with two million speakers. The last Nguni language is Ndebele, which is spoken by half a million people in some northeastern parts of South Africa. Between the four separate Nguni languages there are...

Bibliography: Diroctorate Of Intelligence U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
Handbook of The Nations, Gale Michigan 1988
Brook, Hugh. "South Africa" Lands and Peoples
Connecticut: Grolier, 1991
Kurian, George. Encyclopedia of the First World
New York: Facts on File Inc. 1990
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