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ALASA 2018 Conference

University of Cape Town

in collaboration with

The School of Languages and Literatures and

The Centre for African Language Diversity (CALDi)


will host the



Conference Theme:  "#African Languages and Protest"








9th - 11th  July 2018




The River Club, Mowbray Cape Town




Submission of workshop proposals (500-800 words):         DEC 12TH 2017

Final date for submission of abstracts:                       JAN 15TH 2018



Proposals for paper presentations, workshops, interactive sessions, posters/exhibitions are invited to the 2018 19th ALASA Interim Conference and Sintu7 at University of Cape Town. The joint conference will offer a platform for discussing critically important topics in the various fields of linguistics, translation and literature.



"#African Languages in Protest"


The theme for the ALASA 19th Interim is "#African Languages and Protest" which addresses the question of the role and status of African languages in South Africa and beyond. While the constitution of South Africa has to be saluted and deserves all the support for recognizing African languages as a national asset and for its brave commitment to empower "all languages" spoken in the nation, the challengers in the implementation of language policies need to be addressed. Despite the official status of 9 African languages in South Africa, even these African languages remain marginalized.


African languages have contributed and impacted on linguistic theories and literature. In the current debates on the transformation of education, also in tertiary institutions in South Africa, African languages have once more taken a center-stage in claims on the decolonization of South Africa's educational system. Indeed the role that language played and continues to play in South Africa bears testimony that languages continue to protest any kind of discrimination and relegation.




With some 500 languages spoken across East, Central and Southern Africa, the Bantu language family is one of the world's largest language families in terms of number of languages, and also in terms of geographic and demographic spread. The family includes major national and international languages, but also many languages which remain not well described, documented and resourced, and a number of languages which are endangered. In terms of structure, many Bantu languages share grammatical features such as morphologically complex verbs and nouns, noun classes, an extensive system of agreement and pragmatically-motivated word order. However, there is also a high degree of micro-variation between and within different languages. The international conference on Bantu languages brings together scholars interested in any aspect of the description, analysis and comparison of Bantu languages. The first conference of this series on the African continent will offer an opportunity for scholars speaking and studying African languages to exchange ideas and findings.

Contributions are invited to submit papers on research related to Literature, Language and Linguistics on and in African languages. In submitting your abstract, please choose your area of interest among the following broad themes:


African linguistics

  • Historical/Comparative Linguistics
  • Phonetics, Prosody, Phonology
  • Morphology, Syntax
  • Semantics, Discourse Analysis, Pragmatics
  • Language Acquisition
  • Psycholinguistics


Language planning and policy in Africa

  • Language in Law
  • Language and Education
  • Language and Business and Economics
  • Language and Human Resources


Language in society

  • Language and Ideologies
  • Language and Gender
  • Language and Media
  • Language and Health
  • Multilingualism, Multiculturalism and Globalisation


Computational linguistics

  • Human language technology (HLT)


Lexicography and terminography

  • Translation Studies



  • History of Literature/ Comparative Literature
  • African Literature and Intellectual Property Rights
  • Prose, Drama, Theatre, Poetry, Oral Art
  • Literary Theories




Guidelines and instructions:


Abstracts of 350-500 words in length should be submitted by e-mail as an Ms Word file or online, accompanied by the following information:


Title, full names and surname:

Institutional affiliation:


E-mail address:

Telephone (cell/mobile or office):

Fax Number:

Postal address and postal/zip code:

Full title of the paper:


Submission of abstracts:


Submission of workshop proposals and abstracts should be made by e-mail or online to (ALASA19) or (SINTU 7)


All abstracts will be adjudicated.


Paper presentation and programme guidelines:


Day 1:


Conference programme: Presentations of papers

Evening: Reception


Day 2:

Conference programme: Presentations of papers, workshops

GALA dinner


Day 3:

Conference programme: Presentations of papers, workshops (AM)

Site-seeing in the afternoon



A detailed programme will be announced once it has been finalised.

Presentations will be confined to 20 minutes plus a 10-minute question/discussion session.


Submission of workshop proposals (500-800 words):     DEC 12TH 2017

Notification of acceptance of workshop proposals:                       DEC 18TH 2017

Final date for submission of abstracts:                                             JAN 15TH 2018

Notification of acceptance of abstracts:                                JAN 31ST 2018


Conference Plenary Speakers Announced:

The conference will feature plenary sessions by some of the world's leading thinkers and innovators in the fields of language, linguistics and literatures. The 2018 plenary speakers will be announced once confirmed.



Early-bird registrations R2800.00 (R2500 + R300 membership fee ALASA members only)*

Late registration R3000.00 (R2700+R300 membership fee ALASA members only)

Students please contact conference organisers


No refunds but you are most welcome to send a substitute at no extra cost.

If membership for 2018/2019 has already been paid please send proof of payment or letter or receipts from the Organisations.




General and Registration:   (ALASA) or   (SINTU 7) and




Pay directly into the bank account (electronic payment):


Deposit the appropriate fee into the bank account and email/fax a copy of the deposit slip or proof of electronic transfer and your registration form to :   (ALASA) or   (SINTU 7) and


Banking details: TBA





Two conference workshops will be organised during the afternoon (14:00 - 17:00) of 9th and 10th July 2018.


Proposals for workshops (500-800 words) should include:

1.    The title of the workshop

2.    A brief description of the specific issues that the workshop will address

3.    The reasons why the workshop is of interest to conference delegates

4.    The names and affiliations, postal addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the organising committee of the specific workshop which should consist of at least two academics knowledgeable in the field, coming from different institutions

5.    The name and the e-mail address of the member of the workshop organising committee designated as the contact person

6.    A summary of the intended call for participation in the specific workshop

7.    An estimate of the approximate audience size

8.    A list of audio-visual or technical requirements and any special room requirements


The workshop proposers will be responsible for the organisational aspects (e.g. preparation of workshop call, distribution of call (via the ALASA & SINTU 7 Organising Committee), review of abstracts, notification of acceptance, submitting accepted abstracts to main conference organising committee).


The key dates are as follows:


§  Submission of workshop proposals (500-800 words):     DEC 12TH 2017

§  Notification of acceptance of workshop proposals:                       DEC 18TH 2017

§  Notification of acceptance of abstracts:                               JAN 31ST 2018

The workshop coordinators will be responsible for the review of abstracts submitted for their particular workshop.



The organisers reserve the right to change or cancel the published venue, programme, dates and/or fee due to unforeseen circumstances.






All costs (travel, accommodation, subsistence) related to your participation in the conference must be covered by the participant, regardless of the proposal acceptance. ALASA & SINTU 7 & are not liable and hold no responsibility for any of these costs.



and (ALASA 19) or (Sintu 7). The 2018 ALASA 19 & Sintu 7 Conference Organising Committee:



Contact No.

E-mail address

Dr. Mantoa Motinyane-Masoko


Dr. Matthias Brenzinger


Dr. Rethabile Possa


Mr. Simphiwe Nolutshungu


Prof Sandile Gxilishe


Ms. Somi Deyi


Mr. Martin Mössmer


Ms. Barbara Westerveld


Mr Akha Tutu


Ms Zukiswa Zono



Registration procedures will follow shortly on our website.



Sesotho sa Leboa


                           PROF ML MOJAPELO



Sesotho sa Leboa – Background


Sesotho sa Leboa is the standard language shared by communities speaking different Sesotho varieties of the northern part of South Africa [Leboa means North]. These varieties are regarded as dialects of the same language. The language has an established orthography that has been in use in education, media and other official platforms. It is taught at the following institutions of higher learning in the Republic of South Africa: University of South Africa, University of Pretoria, University of Limpopo, University of Venda, University of Johannesburg, and Tshwane University of Technology. Sesotho sa Leboa is predominantly spoken in Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, as well as in the northern parts of Gauteng province. It comprises various dialects that are geographically identifiable. Scholars have grouped these dialects slightly differently into clusters, based on specific characteristics being studied. Below are some of the main dialects grouped into clusters (Adapted from Unisa Study guide NSO301-3, 1996):


Historical overview


The communities listed above spoke their varieties, which were mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Values and narratives were passed down by word of mouth. It was only with the arrival of missionaries that the language was written. The missionaries arrived at different times, in different areas. The written form of this language is based on the Sepedi dialect which, together with Sekopa, was the first that the Berlin missionaries learnt. As other missionaries arrived in other northern Sesotho-speaking parts of the country, they each contributed to the development of the language, writing in the variety of the area they settled in. They did this through the churches, school books and teacher training colleges that they established. Several dialectal areas ended up forging ahead with development concurrently. Therefore different dialects contributed to the standardisation process, as was already reflected in the steadily merging usage of the language. The following points list the missionaries (who were major role players in early language development), the settlement area where their most contribution was made and major dialects of the areas: 

The Berlin Missionary Society: Ga Boleo – Middleburg, Mashishing, Ga Sekhukhune (Sekopa, followed by Sepedi)

The Anglican Church: insignificantly in Lydenburg, and later thrived West of Polokwane (Dialects of Polokwanne and surroundings – Mashashane; Moletši, Matlala)

The Dutch Reformed Church: Zoutpansberg area, Louis Trichardt (Sehananwa and Seṱokwa)

The Roman Catholic Church: insignificantly in Pilgrimsrest and Lydenburg (Sepulana and Sepedi), then significant contribution West of Polokwane (Dialects of Polokwanne and surroundings – Mashashane).

Amidst conflicting views around the name of the language, it is still uninformed to think that every Sesotho variety of the northern part of the country is Sepedi, or that the standard language is purely Sepedi. Basotho ba Leboa (Northern Sotho people) represent a complex group with diverse historical and genealogical origins. Clarifying the issue Mphahlele (1978:23) states “Calling every N. Sotho speaking person Mopedi is just as incorrect as referring to every Motswana as Morolong or Mokgatla.”



Kosch, IM and Kotzé, AE. 1996. Northern Sotho: Sound system. Only study guide for NSE301-3 (Revised Edition). Pretoria: University of South Africa.

Mokgokong, P.C. 1966. A dialect-geographical survey of the phonology of the Northern Sotho area. Unpublished M.A. Dissertation. Pretoria: University of South Africa.

Mphahlele, M.C.J. 1978. The development, role and influence of missionary teacher-training institutions in the territory of Lebowa 1903-1953: An historical-pedagogical survey. Unpublished D.Ed Thesis. Turfloop: University of the North.

South Africa. 2001. Publication of a board notice in terms of section 8(11) of the Pan South African Language Board Act, 1995 (Act No. 55 of 1995). Government Gazette 22223, April 20 (Board Notice 76 of 2001)


Compiled by: Prof Mampaka Lydia Mojapelo




Prof TM Sengani   


A people’s language starts with the people themselves. Vhavenda, according to Nemudzivhadi (2006; 2011), are traced to an area along the East Coast in Somalia and the great lakes and seem to have links with Zenj/Zanj/Zinj who was the son of Kush. The term Zenj is said to mean Black people (Theal, 1910; Torrend, 1891; Tolmacheva, 1975). Historians agree that some of their groups among them Vhangona, Vhanyai, Vhatwanamba, Vhambedzi and Vhatavhatsindi left the area called Azania earlier and travelled south (Ralushai, 1977; Nemudzivhadi, 1998). Records reveal that they met Vhalemba around Ethiopia and they travelled together for ages until they reached Vhukalanga and later the areas called Venda. Tshivenda is one of the languages spoken by the people of Zenj of Azania which scholars say covered a larger area than some European scholars write about. The people of Zenj are said to have spoken Zangijah a term covering all their languages (Doke & Cole, 1969). Later European scholars referred to their languages wrongfully as Bantu instead of the languages of Zenj, Azania or Central Eastern African Languages just like they did with European languages which were known by their national/tribal affiliates such the Germanic languages, English, Dutch, German and the Scandinavian languages as the people are from the Germanic tribe; Romance languages which covers French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Greek because they are associated with the Roman empire. Unfortunately African languages were named after a lexical item Bantu which happened to be the most common and yet it was not the case with father/vader/pater of the Germania and Romance languages. Though Tshivenda is spoken in South Africa and some parts of Zimbabwe, it has common features with Kiswahili, Chisena, Chinyanja and many languages in Central Africa.

Mission stations

According to the Benso (1979) the first missionaries to preach among Vhavenda were those of the Dutch Reformed church lead by one Mackidd as early as 1863. They established the first mission station along the Vhuilausumbwa mountain range, later named the Soutpansberg, with the Voortrekkers naming it Goedgedacht. They are also said to have established the first school in Venda.  There were others such as Swiss Mission which catered for Tsonga, but it was the Missionary Koen who started a school in 1878 that catered for Tshivenda at Mavhola. It was the Presbyterian Church which started work at Gouldville with MacDonald. Another mission, Getrusberg, was established in 1899 and another at Khalavha in 1902. Most of these also established schools, though much work on the language was done by the Lutheran missionaries. It is therefore important to know that in 1918 the Seven Day Adventist started a missionary station called Muruba, the Anglican Church at Mukula in 1912 and the Savation Army one in Gaba and Tshidimbini. The Dutch Reformed Church established another mission, Siloam, having started at Matshisevhe and the last one, Tshilidzini, at Tshisaulu (Benso, 1979:43-5). Most of these churches established schools were Tshivenda was taught.

The first writers of Tshivenda

The first people to have reduced Tshivenda to paper are said to be missionaries of the Lutheran Church. The idea is said to have developed in Berlin in 1824, when nine men decided to forsake everything to go to preach the Word to all nations. The founded the Berlin Mission Society in 1829. After building a Seminary to train preachers and missionaries, some set for Africa in 1833 for a journey that took 11 months and later spread themselves among African nationalities of different languages. Wherever they went they built churches, schools and hospitals. Both Nemudzivhadi (2006) and Kirkaldy (2005) speak of Beuster, Stech, Schwellnus, Bertoud and Kuhn who came around 1972, 1874 and 1877. Work started at Tshimboni, where Beuster is said to have gone around and every time he met people his message was, No tshidzwa! ‘Are you saved?’ Netshiongolwe from Tshiheni, (whose name became Johannes Mutshaeni, who got converted in Natal and his wife Mufanadzo), was joined by others mentioned in the records as David Denga, Solomon and Piet Totani. Much work developed through the preaching of the gospel as these missionaries travelled around with the Vhavenda speakers mentioned above, who acted as interpreters. It should be noted that these first Vhavenda preachers rarely appear in most works, as scholars always focused on the European missionaries. Nemudzivhadi (2006; 2011) further enlist a number of books that were written by Carl Beuster as;
•    Thalusamaipfi, Matshimbidzele a kereke, Tshipele tsha Tsevenda (1883)
•    Katexima thuku ea Matinus Luther (1884)
•    Dziepistola dzevangeli dza dzizondaha na dza Votambo dza Moaha oote (1884).
•    Evangeli ya Yohannes dza dziepistola 3 dza Yohannes na dzipisalema, Dzimoe dzo khetheoaho nga Tsevenda (1895)
In 1888 Beuster is said to have visited Khosi Ravhura and wrote a song about Thohoyandou.    It was in the book Bawenda Mission in Nord Transvaal by Gundler where everything he wrote was written in 1897.
Another chapter of Tshivenda development took place Tshakhuma where the missionary Schwellnus found the language very difficult. However, among his children Theodore, Paul, George, Hans and Edmund, it was Paul who was identified as being more advanced in the languages than his siblings. 
Much work was done by Schwellnus after the death of Beuster.  His children met the German scholar Carl Meinhof, who assisted with the Lepsius system of writing. It was this encounter which lead him to publish Das Tsevenda in 1901. After this there were more publications when Theodore Schwellnus revised his father’s Tsepele tsa Tsevenda, which had a new title Mikanzwo. This was followed by Ndede in 1912 which included the letters of the alphabet, sounds and sentences and some Tshivenda tales. Furthermore it was Paul and Theodore, together with Enndeman, Lalumbe, Dzivhani and their sister Edmund Giesekke, who compiled Nyimbo dza Vhatendi (Mathivha, 1972, Kirkaldy 2005, Nemudzivhadi, 2006;2011).
According to Mathivha (1972), Schwellnus published Katekasim duku ya Dr Martin Luther in 1902 and Tshivenda hymn book in 1903. It is easy to notice Northern Sotho or Sepedi in the early Tshivenda writings because these missionaries did missionary work before writing Sepedi books. These included:
•    Die verba des Tsivenda was published in 1904 in which Tshivenda speech sounds were compared to the German ones. Mathivha.
•    Mikanzwo ya vhuswa ha vhutshilo ya maduvha a Murena othe a nwaha (1911). This book contained translations from the New Testament which Mathivha maintain had good Tshivenda idiomatic expressions.
•    In 1918, Schwellnus produced Ndede ya luambo lwa Tshivenda using new orthography.
•    In 1918, ED Giesekke wrote Mafhungo a buguni ya Mudzimu which, according to Mathivha, had the same orthography as in Mikanzwo.
As an attempt towards forging linguistic links between Tshivenda and German, TH and PE Schwellnus wrote Worterverzeichnis de Venda-sprache, which had equivalents of both languages in 1919. In other words, speakers from both languages could use it to learn the languages.
In 1920, PE Schwellnus wrote Evangeli ya mishumo ya Vhaapositola using new orthography. Again in 1923 he produced a New Testament translation with new orthography and in 1924 he wrote the modern Venda hymn book called Nyimbo dza Vhatendi. Another chapter was opened with the coming of C Endemann, who wrote Midzimu ya malombo, in which he showed some cultural elements of Vhavenda (Mathivha, 1972). A series of readers by Schwellnus followed:
•    Mudededzi 1 (1930)
•    Mudededzi 11 (1938) in which he added legendary stories, folktales, proverbs and some stories he got from Vhavenda speakers.
•    In 1930 Schwellnus wrote Luvenda grammar which deals with parts of speech, syntax, rules of writing poetry and language analysis.
Another milestone came with the writing of Phendaluambo ya zwikolo zwa Venda by TH Endemann and EFN Mudau in 1940. This was followed by PR Ngwana‘s Kha ri ambe Luvenda, which had exercises and proverbs for students and later by HM Mulangaphuma. Later E. Mukhuba wrote Ndilana dza Luvenda for lower classes.
Ziervogel and Dau produced a handbook of the Venda language in 1960 which was later revised by Ziervogel, Wentzel and Makuya in 1972. This grammar book was meant for students of higher education and deals with phonetics, phonology, morphology and semantics. MER Mathivha and JT Makhados’ Thahulela Luvenda came at an opportune time for high school students in 1966. There was also Maumela’s Thikho ya Luvenda, Makuya’s Luvenda  (1983) and Ngoma ya Vhatei by NA Milubi (1996 ).

Historical, anthropological and archaeological material

•    In 1908, Wasseman produced The Bawenda of Spelonken.
•    In 1931, HA Stayt wrote The Bavenda
•    In 1932, NJ Van Warmelo produced Contributions towards Venda History, Religion and Tribal ritual.
•    In 1940 NJ Van Warmelo, SM Dzivhani, EFN Mudau, MM Motenda and Mamadi produced The copperminers of Musina and the early history of the Zoutpansberg.
•    In 1966 Marole produced Makhulukuku, Raluvhimba and Lushaka lwa Vhalemba.
•    WMD Phophi produced the following: Phusuphusu dza Dzimauli (1970, Educum), Mafhungo a Mbilwi 1 & 2 (1989, Educum); Mafhungo a Tshulu (1991, Educum), Nganea dza Linzhelele (1989, Macmillan Boleswa) and Phunzhavhunzha dza Ha Tshivhasa (1989, Educum0, Nganea dza Mutale (1990, Macmillan Boleswa).
•    In 1989, JHN Loubser published Archaeology and early Venda history, followed by Oral traditions, archaeology and the history of Venda Mitupo in 1990.
•    In 2005, A Kirkardy published Capturing the Soul: The Vhavenda and the Missionaries, 1870-1900.


•    ED Giesekke, Lwendo lwa Muendi (1960)
•    MH Nemudzivhadi, Makhaulambilu a Julius Ceasar (1976)
•    In 1958 a series of books entitled Muratho were produced by PR Ngwana, while his brother DM Ngwana produced Vhakale vha Hone, in which a number of Vhavenda poets contributed texts.
It is also crucial to point out that much was done in the development of Tshivenda through the involvement of the first trained teachers among them, like SM Dzivhani in 1913, SR Rabothata and I Dau in 1915, which were later increased by J Mavhusha, I Phaswana and N.R Masekela during 1924.
Most Vhavenda are filled with pride when the missionary Karl Drescher is mentioned because, whereas others gave Vhavenda converts new European names (said to be of Christian origin), he did not change their names, allowing converts kept their Tshivenda names. According to Nemudzivhadi (2011) it was Forbes, who sealed the deal when he gave his children Tshivenda names; something that was unusual in Christian circles.
Among the first Tshivenda dictionaries was one written by the Rev Westphal. Both Nemudzivhadi and Kilkardy are full of praise of Thovhele Makwarela Mphaphuli, who over the years challenged Paul Schwellnus to write the Tshivenda Bible. Again, Nemudzivhadi  points out that Paul Schwellnus was reminded by the first Muvenda, trained reverend and teacher Stefanus Makhado Masiagwala Tshivhase, about the issues of the Tshivenda Bible that THovhele Makwarela Mphaphuli had requested from him.
The major challenge to Schwellnus came when GP Lestrated, the Government Ethnologist, announced that since Tshivenda was not a fully-fleshed language but a mixture of Chikalanga and Tshibeli, there was no need for it to be taught in schools.  Schwellnus used his own background, as he was born in Venda and spoke it as a first language, to take it seriously; starting in 1933 and finishing in 1937. Of course, speakers of the language such as J Mavhusha his sister Edmund (who was also a typist) to assist. Besides, he had been told of the passing on of Thovhele Makwarela Mphaphuli in 1927 with a copy of the new testament in his hands. This very Bible was published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1937 and was launched at a huge event at Tshakhuma in 1938. After this a number of publications by Schwellnus followed, including Ndededzi A-VI, Mafhungo a mutakalo, and Phendaluambo.
More books followed written by NJ Van Warmelo and WMD Phophi. Most of these were books on Venda law and a dictionary, though no credit was given to Mr Phophi. Again, Lestrated openly confesses that he compiled a book entitled Some Venda Folktales, which he got from Mr Phophi, but the latter’s name does not appear on the cover page. On the other hand, TH Endemann produced a grammar book with E Mudau. In 1938 a competition was sponsored by International Institute of African Languages and three books were published written by SM Dzivhani, E Mudau and MM Motenda. Later on LM Marole produced the following; Vocabulary, Raluvhimba, Lushaka lwa Vhalemba, Makhulukuku and Bugu ya Dzinyimbo.
The government introduced magazines for Africans such as Wamba and Mvelaphanda, with TN Maumela later editing Muvenda. These were followed by the Venda Home Governemt-sponsored Thohoyandou newspaper, which ran until they were deposed.


A few tired their hands to collect folklore material. Besides folktales appearing in PE Schwelluns earlier books, Lestrade collected some folktales from WMD Phophi and translated them into English in Some Venda Folktales.
•    Maumela, T.N with Mavhina, Muedi and the Rev Mbuwe, Dzingano na dzithai dza Tshivenḓa, (1969, JL Van Schaik)
•    Rananga, N.C (2001) Zwila kale published by Lobelia Publishers.
•    Ramaliba, T. Z: (1996) Makhulu wanga Vho-Nyatshavhungwa. Published by JL Van Schaik.
•    Mafela M.J and Raselekwane N.R: Ri a dzedza (1991)  published by NAM Publishers.

Literary works: Novels and dramas

It was in the 1950’s when Tshivenda speakers started to produce literary works with TN Maumela‘s Elelwani, followed by ES Madima’s A si ene.  These were followed by many others like Makamu’s Nyabele muthia vivho and MER Mathivha’s Mabalanganye. Maumela was to become the foremost Tshivenda writer with almost 62 books, among them novels, drama, essays, folktales and grammar books. Many other writers followed, such as PSM Masekela’s Nungo dzi mulomoni, followed by R.R Matshil’s Ndo lata.
Therafter, with Maumela, Madima and Mathivha continuing to write, a new breed of writers appeared among them, including TN Makuya,  IP Demana, ET Maumela, AM Mahamba,  AW Magau, NG Magwabeni, JM Netshivhuyu, MJ Mafela, RN Madadzhe, M Nevhutalu, TT Netshirando, TT Mudau,  TM Sengani, EN Phaswana, TJ Manenzhe, SN Mahamba, AE Maisha, T Madima, MR Madiba, NW Tshamano, IP Mandende Sigogo, KY Ladzani. Except for the last two who are females, the rest are males. MJ Mafela (2005)went on to write Tshivenda Literature: A historical sketch with special reference to its bibliography. In the book, he sketches on Folklore, missionary adventurers, Tshivenda literature from 1954-70, literature and the homeland system from 1971-89 and literature and the winds of change between 1990-1994.


A collection of poetry was made into a book by DM Ngwana with poems of PR Ngwana, Z Mutsila, A Babane, AP Sigame, D Nesengani, ES Madima (1958). For some years there was a break after Ngwana’s Vhakale vha hone until Sigwavhulimu broke through with Tsiko Tshiphiri and Mirunzi ya Vhuvha and the Ratshitanga brothers Tendamudzimu and Rashaka with Vhungoho and Tsengela tsiwana. M Tshindane, Milubi and a group among them M.R Nevhutalu, M. Netshirando, L.Ndlovu, P.M. Nefefe, E.T. Thangwane and KY Ladzani produced poetry volumes. Mulubi’s doctoral thesis was later transformed into a book entitled Aspects of Tshivenda poetry and has been very valuable to students and lecturers alike.
Generally, the themes seem to vary with poetry. From the beginning, poets recorded songs, children’s rhymes and poetry on ordinary property and as time progressed others, especially Sigwavhulimu, started to write poetry that used poetic devices, with many following him in this direction. The Ratshitanga brothers and Milubi wrote protest poetry which consummated with the political period.
Though many continued to write novels and dramas, many with the exception of Magwabeni’s Zwi do fhela ngani, and Phaswana’s Tshi do lilwa  tended to be rather small in size and focused still on general themes with very few crossing over to political ones. It was in drama where Milubi excelled with political themes. Very little is heard on much is being written because writers’ groups have not been as active of late.


Bureau for economic research: Co-operation and development (Benso). 1979. Independent Venda. Pretoria: Rau.
Doke, C.M & Cole, D.T. 1969. Contributions to the history of Bantu linguistics. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.
Kilkardy A. 2005. Capturing the soul: The Vhavenda and the missionaries, 1870-1900. Pretoria: Protea Book House.
Mafela MJ. 2005. Tshivenda Literature: A historical sketch with special reference to its bibliography. Pretoria: Khande Publishers,
Mathivha MER. 1972. A survey of the literary achievements in Venda: A descriptive study from the earliest beginning up to 1970. D.Litt thesis, University of the North, Pietersburg.
Milubi NA. 1996. Aspects of Venda poetry. Pretoria: JL van Schaik.
Nemudzivhadi MH. 1998. The attempts by Makhado to revive the Venda kingdom. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Potchefstroom University of Christian Higher Education, South Africa.
Nemudzivhadi MH. 2006. Histori ya luambo lwa Tshivenda (Unpublished paper).
Nemudzivhadi MH. 2011. Minwaha ya 75 ya Bivhili ya Vhavenda 1936-2011.  (Unpublished paper).
Ralushai VNM. 1977. Conflicting accounts of Venda history with particular reference to the role of Mitupo in social organization. D.Phil thesis, Queen’s University, Belfast.
Theal, G.M.1910. The yellow and dark-skinned people of Africa South of the Zambezi: A description of the Hottentots, and particularly of the Bantu with fifteen plates and numerous folklore tales of the different people. London: S. Sonnenchein & Co.
Tolmacheva M. 1975. The Zanj language. Azania 45(1):16-24.
Torrend, J. 1891. A comparative grammar of the South-African Bantu Languages. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd.




Shona is one of the major languages of Zimbabwe, a country situated north of South Africa. The term Shona is a conglomeration of dialects and as language it is national and official in Zimbabwe. Like with other indigenous African languages of Southern Africa, it was reduced to writing by missionaries. Being a dominant language it has over the years spread in all directions. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Focus on Africa (1996), the spread of Shona in different directions was instigated by various factors, among them, employment prospects, refugee status and trade.

Fig 1: The spread of Shona


Mbanje, Lazarus: BBC. Focus on Africa, April - June 1996. 

Shona migrated to South Africa owing to migrant workers who worked in South Africa in mines, on farms and as teachers from the 1900s through to the present day. As a corollary of this migration, the Roman Catholic Church conducted mass in Shona in Sophiatown in the early 1950s. Incidentally, in 1951, about the same time that Shona was introduced in church, Prof Kriel introduced Shona as one of the subjects at the University of South Africa when Unisa was still in Cape Town. Unfortunately, Shona was phased out when Prof Kriel left Unisa to occupy the post of Dean at Fort Hare. When Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980, Shona was introduced at Unisa again, this time in Pretoria, with the blessing of the then Minister of Education in Zimbabwe and the management at Unisa. The lecturers then were Prof G Fortune, Prof Kriel and Prof Wentzel. At the beginning of its peak, in 1992, the Shona Language Section had four lecturers, operating among eight South African languages with a total of 100 lecturers and administrative staff. The lecturers for Shona at the time were Prof P Wentzel, Prof N Dembetembe, Prof Kriel and Prof DE Mutasa. Shona at undergraduate level was phased out in 2008 and is now offered at postgraduate level. Through its fecund postgraduate programme it has produced more than 50 masters and doctoral students. Some of the doctoral students serve as research fellows, co-promoters, external markers and e-tutors for the Department of African Languages at Unisa.


Mbanje, L. 1996.  BBC Focus on Africa, April – June 1996.




Setswana is a language spoken in Southern Africa by about 6.1 million people. It is a Bantu language belonging to the Niger–Congo language family within the Sotho languages branch of Zone S (S.30) and is closely related to the Northern and Southern Sotho languages as well as the Kgalagadi language and the Lozi language.

Setswana is an official language and lingua franca of Botswana, spoken by a little over two million of its inhabitants. The majority of Setswana speakers are found in South Africa, where a little over four million people speak the language and where an urbanised variety known as Pretoria Sotho is the principal language of that city. Until 1994, South African Tswana people were notionally citizens of Bophuthatswana, one of the bantustans of the apartheid regime. Although Setswana is significantly spoken in South Africa and Botswana, a small number of speakers are also found in Zimbabwe and Namibia, where respectively 29 400 and 12 300 people speak the language.

The first European to describe Setswana was the German traveller H Lichtenstein, who lived among the Tswana people in 1803. He mistakenly regarded Setswana as a dialect of isiXhosa, and the name he used for the language, “Beetjuana”, may also have covered the Northern and Southern Sotho languages.

Hinrich Lichtenstein

Recent terminology

ch (mochohru)

kj (sseaakja)

ss (bussecho)

r (mochohru)

tj (tjabihle)

sch (kammuscho)

g (mogôdu)

tl (seatla)

s (bosigo)

d (mogôdu)

tlh (tlhabile)

š (ka mošo)

The first major work on Setswana was carried out by the British missionary Robert Moffat, who had also lived among the Batlhaping and published Bechuana spelling book and A Bechuana catechism in 1826. In the following years he published several translations of books of the Bible, and in 1857 he was able to publish a complete translation of the Bible.

Moffat’s table of consonants




k kh


t th

tl tlh

c ch








The first grammar of Setswana was published in 1833 by the missionary James Archbell, although it was modelled on an isiXhosa grammar. The first grammar of Setswana which regarded it as a separate language from isiXhosa but still not as a separate language from the Northern and Southern Sotho languages was published by the French missionary E Casalis in 1841. He changed his mind later, and in a publication from 1882 he noted that the Northern and Southern Sotho languages are distinct from Setswana.

In 1876 the South African intellectual and linguist Solomon Plaatje was born, and he became the first writer to extensively write in and about Setswana. He became the first editor of the Setswana–English newspaper, Koranta ya Batswana. He was the most famous Setswana intellectual, journalist, linguist, politician, translator and writer. Plaatje was a founder member of the African National Congress, was fluent in at least seven languages, and was the first African on the continent to translate the works of Shakespeare into an African language, namely Setswana.

Plaatje’s translations encouraged Batswana to start writing in their own language. The first Setswana drama, entitled Motswasele II, by LD Raditladi was published in 1936. It was followed by a novel, Motimedi, by DP Moloto in 1938. In 1940 Moloto also wrote Mokwena, the second novel in the Setswana literature, and in 1949 MOM Seboni published a volume of poetry, Maboko, maloba le maabane. This period heralded the development and growth of Setswana language and literature.

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