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Ubuntu

Xhosa, like most Bantu languages, has a complex system of noun classes each of which has a distinctive prefix. This allows multiple related concepts to be formed from the stem, giving a connectedness to concepts that I find particularly pleasing.

By way of example, I present some words derived fron the stem -ntu. The most used is probably umntu or abantu (a person / people). From abantu comes the term bantu. The origin of the word is a name, uNtu, and refers to the legendary ancestor of the Bantu people. Then moving to more general concepts, one has isintu, meaning the culture and way of life of people, and by extension the human species. One step further we find uluntu, or community. And then, at its most abstract, we have ubuntu, meaning humanity or human-ness.

Ubuntu has become a fairly common term in our modern society, and as a result I leave you with a popular Xhosa idiom used to explain what ubuntu means: umntu ngumntu ngabantu, which is to say a person is a person through, or because of, other people.

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