Sound structure

Sesotho pronunciation guide

Sound

As in English

Sesotho example (translation)

a
b
bj
d
e
e
f
fj
g
h
hl
i
j
k
kg
kh
l
m
n
ng
nq
ny
o
o
p
ph
pj
pjh
q
qh
qhw
r
s
sh
t
th
tj
tjh
tl
tlh
ts
tsh
u
y
w

a in far
b in able
b in bed + y in you
d in deer
e in we
ai in hair
f in after
f in far + y in you
ch in loch
h in hand
like Ll in Welsh Llewellyn
ee in meet
ch in chunk
ck in back
c in cat + ch in loch
ki in kindle
l in left
m in him
n in name
ng in longer
CLICK (nasalised)
ny in Kenya
oe in shoe
aw in jaw
p in lip
p in pull
p in cup + y in you
p in cup + y in you + a
CLICK
CLICK (aspirated)
CLICK (aspirated)
r in red
s in his
sh in shoot
t in hat
t in till
ch in chunk
ch in chunk
tl in little
t (in cat) + Ll in Welsh Llewellyn
ts in hats
ch in change
oe in shoe
y in you
w in water
araba (answer)
bala (read)
bjara (crush)
dula (sit)
lebese (milk)
memo (invitation)
fofa (fly)
lefjwa (be paid)
gafa (tax)
hape (again)
hlafuna (chew)
bina (sing)
kajeno (today)
kena (enter)
kgahliso (fun)
khabetjhe (cabbage)
leino (tooth)
mokete (festival)
nama (meat)
ngaka (doctor)
nqalo (place)
nyala (marriage)
monna (man)
roka (praise)
pula (rain)
phiri (hyena)
pjatla (boil well)
pjhatla (smash)
qeta (finish)
qhitsa (drip)
qhwaya (wave)
rekisa (sell)
sefate (tree)
mashala (coal)
tau (lion)
thaba (mountain)
tjeka (dance)
tjhaka (visit)
tlou (elephant)
tlhaho (origin)
tseba (know)
tsheha (laugh)
utlwa (perceive by a sense)
ya (go)
wena (you)

CLICK sounds are suction sounds made by trapping a body of air between the tongue and the roof of the mouth, i.e. the tongue touches the whole edge of the upper teeth as well as the velum. The middle of the tongue is lowered without this closure being broken. This lessens the pressure of air in the space between the tongue and the palate. When the closure is broken at any point, the air from outside rushes into this small space, resulting in a click sound.

 

Vowel chart for Sesotho:

[Sesotho vowel chart]

Doke and Mofokeng (1957:1-10) list these 9 vowels, while Mokoena (1998:23) only refers to 7 of them.

 

Summary of the consonants of Sesotho:

Consonants

(Click here for a detailed version.)

Sources

WEBSITES
Travlang.com Sesotho pronunciation guide

BOOKS

DOKE, C.M. & MOFOKENG, S.M. 1957. Textbook of Southern Sotho Grammar. Cape Town : Longman. 491p. (see p.1-51)
KOCK, L.J. & MOEKETSI, R.H. An Introduction to Sesotho phonetics. Houtbay : Marius Lubbe. 87p.
MOKOENA, A.D. 1998. Sesotho made easy. Pretoria : Van Schaik. 243p. (see p.22-26) [BUY THIS BOOK]
SHARPE, M.R.L. 1980. Everyday Sesotho Grammar. Morija : Morija Sesuto Book Depot. 158p. (see p.1-2)
SWANEPOEL, C.F., KOCK, L.J., MOEKETSI, R.H. & MISCHKE, G. 1994. Southern Sotho Studyguide 1 for SST102-X. (Introduction to phonetics and phonemics). Pretoria : Unisa. 72p.
WILKEN, P. 1994. Understanding everyday Sesotho. Cape Town : Maskew Miller Longman. 94p. (see p. vi-vii) [BUY THIS BOOK]

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J. Olivier (2009)