Chegwapong: The Risk beyond Bilingualism

  • Stephen T.M. Lukusa University of Botswana, Department of African Languages and Literature
  • B. Mogara Department of African Languages and Literature, University of Botswana
Keywords: Chegwapong, legwapo, moribund language, vibrant language, language endangerment scale


Intelligibility between Chegwapong and other languages (e.g. Sebirwa) or dialects of Setswana (such as Sengwato and Setawana) remains an undeniable fact due to genetic relations between these speech forms. What raised our eyebrows is the ETHNOLOGUE’s description of Chegwapong as a vigorous (i.e. vibrant) language. We went out for a much more recent fieldwork to collect data that led to the publication of An Anthology of Chegwapong Folktales. Our three-member research team included two fluent Setswana speakers.

Contrary to the afore-mentioned inadvertent description, Chegwapong is not only undergoing the process of change, its life too is threatened by the dwindling number of its speakers. The public image of this language is generally negative; people tend to see it derogatively as a mispronounced variety of Setswana whereas it is in reality an offshoot of Sepedi/Sesotho sa Leboa (i.e. Northern Sotho, one of the Bantu languages spoken in the Republic of South Africa).

Our account in this paper is backed by our unanimous field observation that most people in the eight Tswapong villages that we were recommended to investigate based on the claim that they were the stronghold of Chegwapong turned out to be people who rather spoke Setswana with a Chegwapong accent assuming that they were speaking Chegwapong.

Should we therefore conclude that Chegwapong is nothing but a mispronounced form of Setswana? This paper attempts to answer this question with supporting evidence collected during our fieldwork.

Author Biography

Stephen T.M. Lukusa, University of Botswana, Department of African Languages and Literature

Department of African Languages and Literature, Associate Professor