• Andy Chebanne
  • Kemmonye Monaka


TjeBirwa (or Sebirwa) is found in north-eastern Botswana, where the majority of speakers are found. It is, however, also found in south-western Zimbabwe and western parts of the Limpopo Province of South Africa. This geographical spread means it has related varieties that constitute minority speech communities in these countries. Their small numbers mean that they are readily and quickly absorbed by majority languages such as Sepedi in South Africa and Setswana in Botswana. The TjeBirwa variety in Zimbabwe has, however, been spared this assimilation. There are linguistic debates to decide whether TjeBirwa and Tjhetswapong should be considered dialects of Sepedi (Northern Sotho, also known as Sesotho sa Leboa of South Africa) or languages in their own right. Even though the Babirwa cherish their history and culture, their language is endangered by language policies in Botswana that exclude it from functional domains. Because of mutual intelligibility with other Sotho-Tswana language clusters, this language risks being neglected in favour of the more developed sister languages of Setswana and Sepedi.


TjeBirwa (Sebirwa), Sotho-Tswana Botswana languages Language marginalization Endangered language 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andy Chebanne
    • 1
  • Kemmonye Monaka
    • 2
  1. 1.University of BotswanaGaboroneBotswana
  2. 2.Department of EnglishUniversity of BotswanaGaboroneBotswana

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