Xitsonga in South Africa


History of Xitsonga

The Vatsonga people came to South Africa long after most other African people. They settled in the Limpopo River valley. Xitsonga is spoken in Southern Mozambique, the Limpopo Province of the Republic of South Africa and South Eastern Zimbabwe.

The name Thonga has its origins in Zulu and the name can be traced back to the early twentieth century. The Shangaan is also sometimes used by some speakers of the language, yet others totally reject it. The name Shangaan can be traced to the Zulu chief Soshangane who subjugated many clans in the nineteenth century, but communities who stem from clans that were never subjugated do not accept this name. Linguistically the languages are similar but culturally there is a difference between the vaTsonga and maShangana people and the xiTsonga and xiShangana languages. On this site the language name used in the South African constitution is used.

There has been some influence from the Nguni language on Xitsonga - especially as a result of Mfecane disturbances from Nguni tribes.


Family: Bantu (or rather Ntu) Language Family Group: South Eastern Bantu (or rather Ntu) No Subgroup

VARIETIES of Xitsonga:

A number of varieties including Xinhlanganu and Xinkuna (Apart from only in South Africa the language is divided into: Ronga, Tonga [i.e. Tsonga-Shangaan] and Tswa)

Speakers of Xitsonga

Around 1 756 105 people in South Africa use it as their home language.