There is a perfectly good reason why BOTS50 rolls off your tongue with such ease compared to BOT50. You may have also heard people say “I come from Bots” and never: “I come from Bot”. This is not by mistake. There is a reason to the propensity to call Botswana Bots and not Bot. This technically is known as hypocorisms – pet name of calling. How this is done comes down purely to linguistics, specifically Setswana linguistics. Let us conclude here first that it was a terrible mistake to brand the Botswana independence’s entire campaign BOT50 and not BOTS50. It is no wonder Batswana keep saying BOTS50 anyway and ignore the name BOT50! Below I argue that BOT50 is influenced by applying English rules to a Setswana name while BOTS50 is the most appropriate name for Botswana50 since it conforms to Setswana phonotactics. Dear reader I beg that you keep up with this article because the argument will use some linguistic knowledge, though fairly rudimentary, which may be challenging to one who is not familiar with the field of linguistics.
On the 30th of September 2016 Botswana will celebrate fifty years of independence from British rule. The celebrations of this important event have been termed Botswana50 which has been shortened to BOT50. We argue that this shortened version is flawed since it influenced by English syllabification and not by Setswana syllabification which would result with BOTS50. We start with the very matter of syllabification and consider it for both Setswana and English. Let’s start here: the syllable (I will not discuss the matter of syllable structure). The name BOTSWANA is made up of three syllables bo, tswa, and na. What is clear is that each of these syllables is made of a consonant (C) followed by a vowel (V): bo (CV), tswa (CV) and na (CV). This is fairly easy to understand for bo and na found in the name Botswana. However, the central syllable [tswa] can be confusing for those without Setswana linguistics training. Their question may be this: Isn’t tswa made of three consonants followed by a vowel? It appears so. [t, s, w, a]. However in Setswana linguistics /tsw/ is a single consonant! Actually what is technically a consonant is /ts/ which in this case is produced with lip-rounding (technically called labialisation). The consonant here is therefore /ts/ with /w/ being a feature indicating labialization. This is a very important point. I will repeat: This is a very important point. Remember this: /ts/ is a Setswana consonant. This means that it cannot be broken into two in the same way that it would be absurd to break /m/ or /k/ into two when we write. You cannot split /ts/ into two and discard /s/ and then remain with /t/ without butchering the language and sounding weird. It is therefore linguistically correct to say BOTS50, and not BOT50, because /ts/ in this regard is a single consonant. And remember, you never split a consonant, therefore you must never split /ts/! The proper thing to say is BOTS50 and not BOT50 which merciless splits a Setswana consonant. There are other place names which follow this pattern. For instance, we say Moch for Mochudi and we don’t say Moc. This is because /ch/ in the name Mochudi constitutes a single consonant which must not be split. We also say Mosh for Moshupa and we don’t say Mos. This is because /sh/ in the name Moshupa constitutes a single consonant which must not be split. We also say Lots for Lotsane and we don’t call Lotsane, Lot. This is because /ts/ in the name Lotsane constitutes a single consonant which must not be split. Since you cannot split /ts/ in Botswana, then BOTS50 is much more appropriate than BOT50.
We must however deal with the issue of how we could have come up with BOT50. And the answer sadly lies in English. The BOT50 scenario can also be explained through the matter of the syllable, that is, through how English speaking people break the name BOTSWANA into syllables. It is totally different from how native Setswana speakers do it. While native speakers break the word Botswana into the following three syllables bo. tswa. and na, English speakers break the name into bot. swa and na. This may even be deduced from the way English native speakers pronounce the name Botswana. They pronounce it as: Bot-swana. This is precisely because English doesn’t have /tsw/ or even /ts/ at the beginning of the word or a syllable (technically, at syllable onset position). No English word or syllable begins with /ts/ or /tsw/. Therefore anytime there is a word that has /ts/ or /tsw/ somewhere in the middle, English speakers will break that consonantal cluster so that it conforms to the rules of English. They will break it so that /t/ belongs to the preceding syllable, while /s/ belongs with the following syllable. This happens because in English /ts/ is not a consonant but a cluster of consonants that always occurs at the end of a word and never at the beginning of a syllable. English speakers would therefore have no problem with pronouncing BOTS50, not because they consider /ts/ a single consonant, but because they see /ts/ as a series of consonants that sometimes occurs at the end of a word, as in the word boots. Therefore how we ended with BOT50 may be explained by appealing to the English syllabification of the name BOTSWANA into Bot, swa and na.
Since the name Botswana is not an English word, but a Setswana word, it is properly syllabified as bo. tswa. na and not as bot. swa. na. It was therefore a terrible mistake to brand the Botswana independence’s entire campaign BOT50 and not BOTS50. It is no wonder Batswana keep saying BOTS50 anyway and ignore the name BOT50!