Code-Switching among Bilingual Speakers of Cape Muslim Afrikaans and South African English in the Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

Master Thesis


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The Bo-Kaap is traditionally a Cape Muslim Afrikaans-speaking community, and sociohistorically it is particularly relevant to the development of Afrikaans at the Cape (Davids 2011, Mahida 1993). The Cape Muslim Afrikaans spoken in the Bo-Kaap is a sub-variety of Standard Afrikaans (Kotzé 1989, Davids 2011) and is distinguishable by its retained lexis (Mesthrie and Bhatt 2008) from languages historically spoken by slaves at the Cape, such as Malay, Arabic, Gujarati, and Konkani. Over time a number of socio-cultural, geographic, and historical factors have introduced the use of South African English alongside Cape Muslim Afrikaans in this speech community. The goal of this study was to provide insight into the nature of bilingual talk in the Bo-Kaap community, and to make a useful contribution to the growing body of codeswitching1 (hereafter CS) research generally. Based on natural language data collected during group interviews with members of the community, the study explored the language contact situation in the Bo-Kaap today, taking the viewpoint that what is occurring presently may be considered CS Three aspects of the CS documented were analysed and quantified. Specifically, the study investigated language interaction phenomena (Myers-Scotton 1995, Deuchar et al 2007) triggers (Clyne 1987) and directionality (Muysken 1997, Deuchar et al 2017, Çetinoglu 2017). A quantitative approach was taken to the data analysis. The interview audio files were downloaded and transcribed in ELAN. (Max Planck Institute). The annotations2 produced in ELAN were organised in a spreadsheet for analysis, resulting in a data set comprised of 356 annotations. The full data set was divided into subsets and tagged for language interaction phenomena, triggers, and directionality. These data sets were then sorted and quantified to identify trends in these three areas of interest. The study found Intra-sentential switches to be the most common type of language interaction phenomenon in the CS of this speech community, being present in 79% of the sampled annotations. Results from other CS studies echo this finding in other speech communities (Al Heeti et al 2016, Koban 2012, Falk 2013). The most common trigger for Intra-word switching in this corpus was in the head of the past tense Verb Phrase. Out of 27 occurrences of Intra-word switching, 16 were of this nature. In all of those an English verb head was housed within an Afrikaans past tense structure. No exceptions were observed in the data set, a strong indicator of the relationship status of the two languages involved. Cape Muslim Afrikaans almost certainly playing the role of the Matrix language, with South African English embedded. In terms of directionality, switching from Cape Muslim Afrikaans into South African English was by far the most common, at 85%. This further supports what the findings on triggers suggest about the hierarchy between these two languages.