English and Afrikaans in District Six : a sociolinguistic study

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This is a descriptive study of the use of English and Afrikaans in Cape Town's District Six - a large inner-city neighbourhood, first settled in the 1840s and, by the implementation of a series of laws, depopulated and almost entirely razed during the 1970s. Each language has a history of having been both a lingua franca and a home language in that area. As lingua francas, both languages were used instrumentally by large numbers of people who had little or no concern with the promotion and preservation of the standard dialects of the languages as a part of maintaining their own identity in the multilingual, multicultural context of the city. The effects of this can be seen in contemporary vernacular English and Afrikaans which differ markedly from the standard dialects, and, it can be argued, show linguistic signs of this long period of language contact. The history of language contact was reconstructed through the use of primary and secondary written resources and oral history records. The distribution of socio-economic power and privilege has not been equal among speakers of the two languages in South Africa as a whole. The cross-currents of discrimination and oppression have affected contemporary attitudes towards the two languages and their dialects in complex ways, producing some clear patterns but also ambivalence and contradictions. This thesis examines those aspects of the history of English and Afrikaans in District Six which have a bearing on current attitudes, practices and dialect features in the segment of District which escaped demolition. Interviews and observation were used to investigate the effects of that history and of geographic and socio-economic factors on the linguistic repertoire of the remaining section of the community.

Bibliography: pages 338-363.