Implicit personality conceptions of the Nguni cultural-linguistic groups of South Africa

20 September 2012

The present study explored the personality conceptions of the three main Nguni cultural-linguistic groups of South Africa: Swati, Xhosa, and Zulu. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 116 native speakers of Swati, 118 of Xhosa, and 141 of Zulu in their own language. Participants provided free descriptions of 10 target persons each; responses were translated into English. Twenty-six clusters of personality-descriptive terms were constructed based on shared semantic content and connotations of the original responses. These clusters accounted for largely identical content in all three groups. The clusters represented an elaborate conception of social-relational aspects of personality revolving around the themes of altruism, empathy, guidance, and harmony. The patterning of responses suggests that the individual is viewed as inextricably bound to his or her context of social relationships and situations. The findings are discussed with reference to the Big Five model of personality and the culture and personality framework.