Xhosa language

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Xhosa (English pronunciation: /ˈkoʊsə/, Xhosa: isiXhosa [isikǁʰóːsa]) is one of the official languages of South Africa. Xhosa is spoken by approximately 7.9 million people, or about 18% of the South African population. Like most Bantu languages, Xhosa is a tonal language, that is, the same sequence of consonants and vowels can have different meanings when said with a rising or falling or high or low intonation. One of the most distinctive features of the language is the prominence of click consonants; the word "Xhosa", the name of the language itself, begins with a click.

Xhosa is written using a Latin alphabet-based system. Three letters are used to indicate the basic clicks: c for dental clicks, x for lateral clicks, and q for palatal clicks (for a more detailed explanation, see the table of consonant phonemes, below). Tones are not indicated in the written form.


Affiliation and distribution

Xhosa is the southernmost branch of the Nguni languages, which includes Swati, Northern Ndebele[1] and Zulu. There is some mutual intelligibility with the other Nguni languages, all of which share many linguistic features. Nguni languages are in turn part of the much larger group of Bantu languages, and as such Xhosa is related to languages spoken across much of Africa.[2]

Xhosa is the most widely distributed African language in South Africa, while the most widely spoken is Zulu.[2] Xhosa is the second most common home language in South Africa as a whole. As of 2003 the majority of Xhosa speakers, approximately 5.3 million, live in the Eastern Cape, followed by the Western Cape (approximately 2 million), Gauteng (671,045), the Free State (246,192), KwaZulu-Natal (219,826), North West (214,461), Mpumalanga (46,553), the Northern Cape (51,228), and Limpopo (14,225).[3] A minority of Xhosa speakers (18,000) exists in Quthing District, Lesotho.[4]

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