Two mysteries about Southern African languages plagued me a little. The first is that, for example, a language can be called Xhosa in German or English but whenever people write about it natively you’ll see isiXhosa instead. Which looks strange, particularly with the mid-word capital. This didn’t make much sense to me initially, but it turns out it’s just grammar which uses a prefix instead of the suffix we are more used to in European languages.
The second mystery is presented by the fact that many African names start with an M. Just read any article on Southern African politics and you’ll notice that. Be it about Mandela, Mbeki and his government or about the Mobutu regime. I didn’t notice M being that frequent in written text, so I’m wondering why it’s so common in names.
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