Original Research

The elevation of Sepedi from a dialect to an official standard language: Cultural and economic power and political influence matter

Tebogo J. Rakgogo, Evangeline B. Zungu
Literator | Vol 43, No 1 | a1827 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v43i1.1827 | © 2022 Tebogo J. Rakgogo, Evangeline B. Zungu | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 August 2021 | Published: 25 February 2022

About the author(s)

Tebogo J. Rakgogo, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Evangeline B. Zungu, Department of African Languages, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


This study explored the role played by economic, cultural, and political power and influence when a particular dialect was elevated to the status of an official standard language. This was a qualitative study that employed text analysis where journal articles, dissertations, theses, academic books and Parliamentary Joint Constitutional Review minutes were considered for data collection and analysis. In order to supplement the above-mentioned method, 267 research participants involving students (undergraduate and postgraduate) and lecturers from the selected five South African universities, including members of the language authorities, were also invited to participate in the study. Self-administered survey questionnaires and face-to-face interviews were chosen as qualitative methods for data collection. From a dialectal point of view, this study indicated that all official standard languages were dialects before. However, these dialects were considered superior and elevated to the status of official languages because of socio-economic power and political influence. This article further recorded that the status type of language planning in the South African context is quite political in nature, not less linguistic. It was against this background that the researchers claim that there is no official standard language that was not a dialect before.


Sepedi, Northern Sotho/Sesotho sa Leboa, Tagalog, Missionaries, dialect; official language standard language; status type of language planning; renaming, and political power and influence


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