Author: Respect Mlambo (SADiLaR Xistonga researcher)

In today’s blog, I provide a general overview of qualificatives in Xitsonga. The primary purpose of this blog is to investigate the morphology, semantics and syntax of Xitsonga qualificatives. Qualificatives are words that describe or modify nouns and pronouns in a sentence. In Xitsonga, there are three types of qualificatives namely possessive, adjective and relative qualificatives. This blog will mainly focus on possessive qualificatives.

  1. Manghenelo

Mabumabumeri eka Xitsonga ku kongomisiwa eka marito lama bumabulalaka riviti na risivi exivulweni. Marhanele (2017) u hlamusela leswaku ntirhokulu wa mabumabumeri i ku engetela nhlamuselo yo karhi eka riviti kumbe risivi leri kumekaka ri tirhisiwile exivulweni. Eka Xitsonga, mabumabumeri ri aviwile hi tinxaka tinharhu letikulu hi ku landza ntirho wa wona wo bumabumela, ku nga ribumabumeri ra rifuwi, rihlawuri, na riengetelo. Eka xitsalwana lexi hi ta kanela ntsena hi ribumabumeri ra rifuwi.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020 07:34

A new English

[T]he English language will be able to carry the weight of my African experience. But it will have to be a new English, still in full communion with its ancestral home, but altered to suit its new African surroundings.[1]

We ought to change the way we think about language from “what languages look like to what people do with languages”.[2] In precolonial Southern Africa, for example in the kingdom of Mapungubwe, people lived and communicated with each other in a mix of different languages; Khoe, Nguni, San, and Sotho peoples used a range of languages that overlapped.[3]

Colonial and apartheid authorities sought to separate out the different languages and drew up both artificial and real boundaries between the languages: most infamously in what they called the Bantustans and the Bantu education system.[4] Although the physical boundaries have been removed, the different languages are still treated as though they are separate – and they serve an important role in people’s construction of identity.[5]

Nevertheless, people do continue to make use of a mix of languages: to optimise their communicative potential in any given context, and especially to construct context-specific meaning.[6] In such a situation people’s various identities are better acknowledged and access is improved for all participants – the concern is not what a language looks like, but what people do with it.[7]

Prof. Leketi Makalela argues that this kind of “ubuntu translanguaging” is ideal to decolonise our linguistic practices in public spaces; the idea of monolingualism is a European notion which arrived on African soil along with colonisation.[8] He uses the specific example of songs students created during the #FeesMustFall protests: the lyrics alternate between Nguni languages and English. Thus, the “boundaries” between the four Nguni languages and English were not what was important; the meaning of people communicating their discontent and protest was.[9] In fact, he goes as far as to say that, 

because English represents the British colonial trajectory in South Africa, using it in decolonising the sociolinguistic predispositions for South Africa is the most appropriate path in the 21st century without the risk of losing the other languages.[10]

Put differently, he advances the idea that we should use the colonial language not in the way its use was prescribed in the past, but in a way that is in keeping with indigenous linguistic practices. That we ought to reach an ubuntu translanguaging mindset where we don’t use language as a way to grant or deny access, but where we use all languages inclusively, in a way that says “I learn because you learn”.[11]

Note: This blog post is the second in a series that argues “that linguistic and cultural hybridity is our identity”.[12] It summarises certain aspects of an article by prof. Leketi Makalela.


[1] Achebe, Chinua. 1965. English and the African Writer. Transition, 18: p. 30; italicisation added.

[2] Makalela, Leketi. 2018. “Our academics are intellectually colonised”: Multi-languaging and Fees Must Fall. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, 36 (1): p. 2.

[3] Ibid., p. 2.

[4] Ibid., pp. 2-3.

[5] Ibid., p. 3.

[6] Ibid., pp. 4-5.

[7] Ibid., p. 5.

[8] Ibid., p. 5.

[9] Ibid., p. 6-7.

[10] Ibid., p. 8.

[11] Ibid., p. 9.

[12] Kachru, Braj B. 1998. English as an Asian language. Links and Letters, 5: p. 105.



Author: Deon du Plessis[1]

4 minute read

The Southern African Linguistics and Applied Linguistics Society (SALALS) recently held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in a virtual format for the first time.

Prof. Daan Wissing, who is affiliated with the SADiLaR node CTexT, received a very special honour in that he was awarded honorary lifetime membership of the Society. Dr. Herculene Kotzé, who is affiliated with SADiLaR’s host institution, the North-West University (NWU), presented the award in Prof. Wissing’s mother tongue of Afrikaans. Dr. Kotzé stressed Prof. Wissing’s long and sustained involvement in SALALS, which stretches from being a founding member of one of its precursors[2] to the present. His lifetime membership should cement his continued presence in future.

Author: Ms Mmasibidi Setaka (SADiLaR Sesotho Researcher)

I was recently invited to join a webinar hosted by the Indigenous Language Action Forum, ILAF, ( in short. It is an organisation that promotes indigenous languages, with the aim to ensure the active use of these languages in important sectors such as education, criminal justice, healthcare etc. The webinar was titled “Using the indigenous languages at universities: Why do it and can it work?”. It was a first of its kind for the organisation and it brought different people in advocating for the use of indigenous languages in higher education in one setting. What touched me about this organisation and the webinar itself was the concept of having a positive narrative for the use of indigenous languages. The idea was to have a conversation about languages without putting others down.