Vol 26 No 4 (2017): Nordic Journal of African Studies
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The Status of Tone in Sesotho: A Production and Perception Study

Daan Wissing
Justus C. Roux
Nordic Journal of African Studies
Published December 31, 2017


Sesotho is generally described as a tonal language. This paper describes an investigation into the ability of a group of young speakers of Sesotho to perceive and produce tonal distinctions in Sesotho. In particular, it focuses on the status of the subject concord morpheme in the question phrases o batlang? (2SG; ‘What do you want?’) and ó batlang? (3SG/CL1; ‘What does (s)he want?’). Thirty young mother tongue speakers aged between 15 and 17 participated in the study, which was conducted over a period of three months. The findings of both experiments clearly showed the functional use of tone by these speakers to be limited, or in some cases even totally absent. These results are suggestive of a system in a state of flux, perhaps indicating the start of an evolutionary process.