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1. a member of a cattle-rearing Negroid people of southern Africa, living chiefly in South Africa
2. the language of this people, belonging to the Bantu group of the Niger-Congo family: one of the Nguni languages, closely related to Swazi and Zulu and characterized by several clicks in its sound system
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Isixhosa), the language of the Xosa (Xhosa, Amaxosa), spoken mainly in the eastern part of Cape Province in the Republic of South Africa. The number of speakers is approximately 3.9 million (1970, estimate).

According to the classification of C. M. Doke (South Africa), Xhosa is related to the Nguni group of the northeastern zone of the Bantu language family. Xhosa has two dialects: Gcaleka and Ngqika. The phonetic structure is characterized by the presence of click sounds, implosive and lateral fricatives. Laws of consonant palatalization and velarization, and vowel fusion and elision, operate in Xhosa. The principal distinctive feature of the grammatical system is the presence of a substantive class system with a disyllabic prefix. The word order follows the pattern subject-predicate-object; modified substantives are followed by their attributes. The system of grammatical agreement is strictly maintained.


Doke, C. M. Bantu: Modern Grammatical, Phonetical and Lexicographical Studies Since 1860. London, 1945.
Bennie, W. J. A Grammar of Xhosa for the Xhosa-Speaking. [Lovedale] 1939.
McLaren, J. Concise Xhosa-English Dictionary. New York, 1936.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.