Towards a common Oshikwanyama official orthography for Namibia and Angola

The way forward on the conjunctive and disjunctive writing systems of Oshikwanyama


  • Edward T. Shikesho Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture



Orthography, disjunctive writing system, conjunctive writing system, translation equivalent, Oshikwanyama, cross-border languages, Bantu, lexicographers, prefix, suffix, radical, root, agglutination, consonantalisation, vowel elision, phonological process


This paper emanates from a serious debate that took place at Okalongo, in Omusati Region, between the author of this salient paper, and some University of Namibia students, specialising in Oshikwanyama. This debate compelled the author of this study to explore further on the writing systems that prevail in Oshikwanyama. The disagreement was on the writing systems that are observed between Oshikwanyama used in Namibia and the Oshikwanyama used in Angola. Oshikwanyama, as a cross-border language, is one of the twelve dialects of Oshiwambo. Oshikwanyama’s writing system is adapted differently. In Namibia, it is written disjunctively, while in Angola, it is officially written conjunctively, especially when it comes to the treatment of verbs (Although, there was an attempt established in a meeting that was held in 2014 at a cultural festival in Ondjiva in Angola, headed by Pedro Tongeni, where it was agreed for the Angolans to adopt to the Oshikwanyama writing system used in Namibia. However, it is not yet officially approved by these two nations.) This is a qualitative study influenced by purposive sampling and content analysis. This study’s theoretical ideas are those of Cole (1975) who believes that Bantu languages should follow their writing system, instead of those of Indo-European languages. In this study’s literature review, a short overview of these two writing systems is provided by various scholars in the linguistic discipline, with special focus on Bantu languages (Prinsloo & De Schryver, 2002; Taljard & Bosch, 2006). Adapting to a common writing system and perhaps coming up with a common official orthography, preferably Orthography 4 of Oshikwanyama, where the two countries will be following in writing future materials, is of paramount importance, and it is what this study recommends.


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Author Biography

Edward T. Shikesho, Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture

Edward T. Shikesho is a high school teacher in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture. He teaches English as a Second Language and Oshikwanyama as a First Language (Grade 8-12) at Nuuyoma Secondary School in Omusati Region, Namibia. He holds a Bachelor of Education (Honours) and a Master of Arts in African Languages (Oshiwambo studies) from the University of Namibia (UNAM) in 2015 and 2019 respectively. While he was an undergraduate student, he served as a writing tutor in the Writing Excellence Unit, at the UNAM’s Language Centre. He is also a part-time lecturer at NAMCOL’s Ongwediva Campus. His research interests include Oshikwanyama Lexicography, Linguistics, and Oshiwambo cultural practices.




How to Cite

Shikesho, E. T. (2021). Towards a common Oshikwanyama official orthography for Namibia and Angola: The way forward on the conjunctive and disjunctive writing systems of Oshikwanyama. JULACE: Journal of the University of Namibia Language Centre, 5(2), 1–11.