Afrikaans-English in the Western Cape : a descriptive socio-linguistic investigation

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

I have attempted to give a broad description of the variety of English used by first-language (White) Afrikaans-speakers in the Western Cape. The first chapter outlines the aims of the thesis with respect to the study of English as a world phenomenon. Important work on other varieties of English, notably that of William Labov and that of Lesley Milroy, is discussed, with emphasis on variationist studies. The chapter also includes a description of the methods used for the collection of data. I did not use questionnaires but rather conducted 'participation interviews'. A brief outline of the areas that the informants were selected from is given. Chapters 2 and 3 give the historical and sociolinguistic background of the Afrikaners. This is important, as without an understanding of their history and social circumstances one cannot appreciate their present attitudes to language. The formative history of the Afrikaners includes a description of the policies of the British government at the Cape at the beginning of the nineteenth century and the subsequent emergence of national identity among the formerly Dutch community. The establishment of such organisations as the Afrikaner Bond, the Broederbond and the Ossewabrandwag all contributed to the identity of the Afrikaners today. The final section of chapter 3 deals with speech communities as well as the concept of social class, as applied to the White South African community. There is a brief outline of the differences between the White and Coloured Afrikaans-speaking communities of the Cape. The third section of this thesis (chapter 4) concerns language: acquisition, in particular theories of second language acquisition. I have outlined the development of (White) education in South Africa, with particular reference to medium of education, and have included a brief description of second language teaching in South Africa today. Bilingualism and ,communication strategies are discussed and I have grouped the informants according to their individual level of proficiency in English. The use of code-switching and code-mixing techniques is also discussed in this chapter, with a brief look at the structural differences between English and Afrikaans. The last, and major, part of the thesis, chapters 5 and 6, is a detailed description of the phonology, syntax, morphology and lexis of Afrikaans-English. The features of this variety are compared to those of standard South African English. The presence or absence of features in the speech of the informants is discussed and indicated in the tables given; the core features, i.e. those that are found even in the speech of the most fluent speakers, are noted. It is also shown that although all the features are possible, no single speaker will have the full set of variables in his/her speech. The presence of the features discussed in this section in Afrikaans- English, Coloured English and other, non-South African, varieties of English is shown; the presence of a feature in non-South African varieties of English appears to reinforce the use of that particular feature in Afrikaans-English. It is shown that Afrikaans-English overlaps phonologically with the continuum of first language South African English at either end of the spectrum on the one hand the accent of Afrikaans- English has features in common with Extreme South African English and at the other, LI-fluency end, it is almost indistinguishable from Respectable South African English. Mention is also made of syntactic, morphological and lexical features that spill over into LI varieties of South African English. Finally, I have appended a brief outline of each of the four competence groups and have given annotated extracts from the data for each. I have also included a collection of the comments regarding language made by the informants.

Bibliography: pages 181-189.