10 September 2011

Why Lesotho Lexicology is incorrect

Why Lesotho Lexicology is incorrect Sesotho was largely an unwritten language in the 15th century, as most of its vocabulay was spoken and acted. Art was more in visual art than anything else. Oral literature was prominent and the large part of Sesotho literature was transmitted this way. Today, there are two versions of Sesotho, one used in Lesotho and the other used in South Africa. The issue with these variations has more to do with written literature than with Sesotho itself. The spoken Sesotho is exactly the same between Lesotho and South Africa. This has to be correct because Lesotho was larger than it currently is pre-colonisation. A large part of Lesotho was confiscated by South Africa, rendering Lesotho what it is today geographically and culturally. The phenomena of christian missionaries in Lesotho in the early 1800s saw the introduction of the written word to Basotho through the bible. It is the white missionaries who translated the bible into Sesotho, and it is the white missionaries who created the first ever Sesotho lexicology at Morija. It is important to understand the consequence of this orgin of written Sesotho as it directly affects how Sesotho is practiced in Lesotho today. The spoken Sesotho that the missionaries practiced was far below the required standard of a competent Sesotho speaker. And this incompetence is obvious in the way they pronounced Sesotho, resulting in how they later wrote Sesotho; which became the standard Sesotho of Lesotho. Their incompetence may be viewed as insignificant at first glance, but had larger than expected consequences for Sesotho. What makes their pronounciations wrong was their use of the following alphabets for things which the alphabets do not represent. For example, they used l instead of d. They used oa instead of wa. They used a instead of ya. The result of this error is that in Lesotho d has been completely phased out, almost. Meaning has also been compromised in particular contexts where it is not clear whether it is meant as a, wa or ya. They use ch to represent tjh, despite the fact that phonetically c does not exist in Sesotho. Phoenetically, Sesotho only has 23 letter of the alphabet, which omits the letters c, x and z. This is the Sesotho that is still used in Lesotho today, over forty years after independence. Since Lesotho and South Africa are so closely connected, for historical reasons including the fact that you families split between Lesotho and South Africa, you are faced with the challenge of fully understanding the written Lesotho Sesotho. People have argued that the Sesotho written in Lesotho should take precedence over the South African one, but how can a language whose founding assumptions are incorrect become standard? Why can't the language planners and practioners in Lesotho correct this obvious error? I am interested to learn what others think of this state of sad affairs. The fact that Sesotho is spoken in two countries by such a large population, this would mean that Basotho are much larger than accounted for presently. Sesotho must be standard all countries unless there are dialects of Sesotho, which simply do not exist. There are dialects of the larger language group called Sotho, but not Sesotho. Sotho as a language group includes Sesotho, Setswana and Sepedi. And Setwana particularly has got many dialects. Should the Sesotho written in Lesotho be allowed to continue to exist in current form? I think not. Article by Fezekile Futhwa Email:fezekile@futhwa.org.za Web: www.futhwa.org.za Basotho Heritage: sesotho.nalane.org.za amaXhosa Heritage: xhosa.nalane.org.za amaZulu Heritage: zulu.nalane.org.za Arts:www.bhala.co.za

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