IsiXhosa (Xhosa) is a language, which belongs to the Bantu-speaking pastoralist population of South Africa.  Bantu language family represents the largest African family languages, spreading over a large territory (9 million sq. km) (Filippo et al.,2012). Linguistic and genetic studies (Barbieri et al., 2014) trace back Bantu speakers to the areas which are today Cameron and Nigeria.  The earliest groups of Bantu-speaking people are believed to have migrated to Sub-Saharan Africa around 2000 BP (Prins and Lewis, 1992). At this time, groups of hunter-gatherers Khoisan were already on the area. Despite the different in subsistence strategies, the Bantu being pastoralist and the Khoisan hunter-gatherers, the contact between these groups facilitated cultural transmission. For this reason, a lot of words used by the Khoisan are also used by the Xhosa speakers. Today, Xhosa language has also been influenced by Afrikaans, and English, and they have incorporated and adapted some of these words to their vocabulary (Kirsch and Skorge, 2010).  IsiXhosa is the second most spoken ancestral language spoken in South Africa. According to a census done on 2011, it is spoken by 8,2 million people (Ethnologue 2015).

It is mostly used in the Western and Eastern Cape Province, but the Eastern Cape Province holds a bigger percentage of isiXhosa speakers. Some of the characteristics of this language are as follows: it is a tonal language, this means the tone will give sense to the meaning of the words that sometimes will have the same spelling, but the tone will indicate the difference in meaning. For example, Úyavuya, which means, you are glad and Úyavuya, which means, he/she is glad. It is also a click language. These clicks are represented by X, Q, and C. Words are linked together, this means nouns consist of two parts, a prefix and a stem, and they are put together to form one word. For example, Ndingu, meaning, I amor NdinguAdriana, I am Adriana.  An interesting fact of Xhosa is that it is the mother tongue of Nelson Mandela and also Trevor Noah.


Barbieri, C. et al.

    2014    Migration and Interaction in a Contact Zone: mtDNA Variation among Bantu-Speakers in Southern Africa.  PLOS. Vol.9(6). 

Ethnologue: Xhosa. Languages of the World, Nineteenth edition. SIL International. Retrieved 20 September 2018.

Filippo, C. et al. 

    2012        Bringing together linguistic and genetic evidence to test the Bantu expansion Biological Sciences. Vol 279(1741). Pp. 3256-3263. 

Kirsch, B. and Silvia Skorge

    2010      Complete Xhosa. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Prins, F. and Hester Lewis

     1992        Bushmen as Mediator in Nguni Cosmology.Ethnology. Vol. 21(2), pp. 133-147.


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