Shekgalagari Language of Botswana

  • Kemmonye C. Monaka


Shekgalagari is classified by Guthrie (The classification of Bantu languages. Oxford University Press for the International African Institute (IAI), London, 1948) as S30 and by Cole (Doke’s classification of Bantu languages. In: Herbert RK (ed) Foundations in Southern African linguistics. Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg, p 131–171, 1954) as 60/2/5. It is spoken by Bakgalagari, a Bantu group of Sotho-Tswana extraction, specifically classified as Western Sotho-Tswana. Bakgalagari were the earliest Sotho-Tswana group to inhabit the Madikwe and Limpopo River basins between AD 900 and 1000 and are estimated to have settled in Botswana around AD 1000. Because of rivalries and wars with Tswana groups, they were later pushed to the Kgalagadi desert and then dispersed throughout the country, also cross-bordering into Namibia. The name ‘Bakgalagari’ was extrapolated onto this (Western) Sotho-Tswana group after the region. Estimations of Bakgalagari populations vary from 50,000 to 272,000. They comprise Babolaongwe, Bangologa, Bashaga, Bakgwatheng, Bagyegwana, Bakhena, Batjhauba, Balala and Baphaleng. In Botswana, Shekgalagari is marginalized, with no official recognition and no official language use. The state language policy which recognizes Setswana and English has been an aggravating factor in language shift and loss. This abandonment of Shekgalagari is continuing in most areas where the language is in constant contact with Setswana, such as Letlhakeng-West and Ngwaketse-West, where it is adopting Setswana lexical items and making phonological innovations towards forms that are found in Setswana. In areas such as the Central District, language shift is complete, with almost all ethnic Bakgalagari in the district speaking Setswana from birth. In an attempt to stem this, Bakgalagari formed Chelwa ya Shekgalagari to cultivate cultural awareness and spearhead language and cultural revival, development and preservation, and significant strides have since been made.


Shekgalagari Marginalized Language shift Language policy Orthography RETENG Chelwa ya Shekgalagari 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kemmonye C. Monaka
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of BotswanaGaboroneBotswana

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