Original Research

Travelling terms and local innovations: The tsotsitaal of the North West province, South Africa

Thabo Ditsele, Ellen Hurst
Literator | Vol 37, No 2 | a1274 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v37i2.1274 | © 2016 Thabo Ditsele, Ellen Hurst | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 January 2016 | Published: 04 November 2016

About the author(s)

Thabo Ditsele, Department of Applied Languages, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
Ellen Hurst, Humanities Education Development Unit, University of Cape Town, South Africa


This article focuses on the theme of linguistic innovation and expands on recent studies of the South African linguistic phenomenon tsotsitaal to show that it has travelled from its epicentre of Gauteng province into the North West province (henceforth North West), where it uses Setswana as its Matrix Language because it is the dominant language in the North West. Data were gathered from the North West’s three largest cities, namely, Rustenburg, Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom. The article presents examples of tsotsitaal spoken in the three cities and analyses its linguistic structure and lexical items. The significance of this tsotsitaal study is that it is the first to be conducted exclusively amongst first language (L1) Setswana speakers in an environment where the language is the most dominant – the North West. The study confirms previous literature which describes the phenomenon as a register of the urban form. It furthermore suggests that new lexical innovations at a local level are often drawn from the local base language, in this case Setswana, because the local language offers the best opportunities for semantic shift and multiple meanings.


Tsotsitaal Studies; Setswana


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Crossref Citations

1. A morphological and lexical analysis of Mandeni urban vernacular
Zempilo Silindokuhle Gumede, Linda van Huyssteen, Thabo Ditsele
South African Journal of African Languages  vol: 41  issue: 1  first page: 105  year: 2021  
doi: 10.1080/02572117.2021.1902149