20 January 2004

How Many? (Tse Kae? Ba Bakae?)

Basotho and others who speak Sesotho tend to use English to count, or to tell the time. It is true that numbers are pre-fixed in relation with the noun they refer to

Twenty houses
MATLO A MASHOME A MABELI

Twenty trees
LIFATE TSE MASHOME A MABELI.

Twenty people
BATHO BA MASHOME A MABELI
What's more, counting becomes ever more complex the higher the number. And that is due to the fact that we do not have a noun representing a number (Five, for example) IN Sesotho, but a phrase defining the number. Twenty is two tens, twenty-one is two tens and one root, forty-nine is four tens and nine roots.

Now imagine telling the time and getting into how many roots all!

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