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English in South Africa

Focusing on Linguistic Features of Black South African English

©2009 Examensarbeit 69 Seiten


Due to the spread of English to so many parts of the world which was triggered during the colonial era and by migration of English-speaking people, the importance of English not only as a language of commerce, science and technology but also as an international language of communication has been realized (Platt, Weber, Ho 1984:1). This world-wide expansion of English means that it is now one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with well over four hundred million native speakers and roughly the same number who speak it as a second language (Barber 2000:236). Consequently, many varieties of English evolved which also means that English is used for many different purposes in varying social contexts. Whereas in North America, Australia and New Zealand the native English-language speakers outnumbered the original inhabitants (Amerindians, Australian Aborigines, Maoris), the native English-speaking community in South Africa is small with a vast majority of the population speaking Afrikaans and indigenous Bantu languages such as Zulu or Xhosa. In spite of this, South African English has undergone relatively little influence from the other languages of the country due to the long period of British domination and the cultural prestige of English (237). Therefore, social variations in the English language in South Africa are extant with very little regional variation.




1 Introduction

2 English in South Africa
2.1 Historical background
2.2 Sociolinguistic history of South African English

3 A multilingual society and its ethnical background
3.1 The formation of Afrikaans
3.2 Black South African English
3.3 The Bantu languages: Xhosa and Zulu

4 English as a means of linguistic imperialism

5 Conclusion


1 Introduction

Due to the spread of English to so many parts of the world which was triggered during the colonial era and by migration of English-speaking people, the importance of English not only as a language of commerce, science and technology but also as an international language of communication has been realized (Platt, Weber, Ho 1984:1). This world-wide expansion of English means that it is now one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with well over four hundred million native speakers and roughly the same number who speak it as a second language (Barber 2000:236). Consequently, many varieties of English evolved which also means that English is used for many different purposes in varying social contexts. Whereas in North America, Australia and New Zealand the native English-language speakers outnumbered the original inhabitants (Amerindians, Australian Aborigines, Maoris), the native English-speaking community in South Africa is small with a vast majority of the population speaking Afrikaans and indigenous Bantu languages such as Zulu or Xhosa. In spite of this, South African English has undergone relatively little influence from the other languages of the country due to the long period of British domination and the cultural prestige of English (237). Therefore, social variations in the English language in South Africa are extant with very little regional variation.

Hence, I will provide an overview of the English language in South Africa by looking at its origins concerning the historical background. Furthermore, I am going to focus on the English language in South Africa in more detail in order to point out the influence of the immigrants’ speech from England and Scotland on some phonetic features of South African English. In the following, I shall focus on the multilingual context of the South African society in regard to Afrikaans, Black South African English and the Bantu languages. Eventually, I am going to discuss whether the spread of English can be seen as an evidence of a dominant language which has been used as a tool for subtle linguistic imperialism, occurring at the expense of local languages, stabilizing hierarchical structures and reinforcing existing status differentials (de Klerk 1996:7-8).

So, the main purpose of my thesis is to show that the English language in South Africa before, during and after apartheid policy has been one of the official languages. But since there is more than one official language in a multilingual nation, the spread of English in South Africa runs the risk of promoting social injustice, as well as native language loss. While English in South Africa is seen by many “as a medium of achieving and announcing independence and maturity, for many others English represents colonialism, power and elitism, and acts as a vehicle of values not always in harmony with local traditions and beliefs” (de Klerk 1996:7). As another aim of my thesis, I will take account of these contradictory attitudes towards the English language in South Africa and discuss them in more detail.

2 English in South Africa

In this chapter, I will focus on the historical and sociolinguistic background of the English language in South Africa in regard to South African English varieties. Next, I am going to compare the English-speaking population to the Dutch-speaking group, while discussing their antipathy that arose during the historical development of the English language and culture in South Africa. In the following, by referring to the historical background of the English language in South Africa, I will discuss the aspect of different language varieties that were influenced by the English language. Then, concerning South African English and its sociolinguistic history, I will point out in which way the English language evolved.

2.1 Historical background

In this section, I would like to begin with an historical overview concerning the southern African indigenous population that later came into contact with European seafarers at the Cape in the 16th and 17th centuries. Further, I focus on how English came to be established in South Africa with reference to its sociolinguistic background.

Based on Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories that man could have originated in Africa, scientists found a fossilized skull with features intermediate between ape and human in the northern Cape of South Africa in 1924 (Barker et al. 1995:11). This discovery was given the name Australopithecus africanus and it proved to be the oldest hominid fossil ever found which had lived between one and three million years ago. Following the discovery of Australopithecus africanus, two further ape-like creatures that were placed within the human family were discovered in South Africa. They were given the name Homo habilis (handy man) and Homo erectus (erect man) that had lived between 90.000 to one million years ago. About 100.000 to 50.000 years ago, Homo sapiens sapiens first appeared in sub-Saharan parts of Africa, after having split off from his hominoid ancestors. The descendants of those who lived in what is now South Africa, and who are believed to have been the area’s original human inhabitants are now usually known as the San communities (20). The remnants of the San are the so-called ‘Bushmen’ that are still living in small numbers in the Kalahari Desert. The San were indigenous hunter-gatherer communities in southern Africa who did not domesticate animals or grew crops. Their weapons were being made of wood, bones and stone since they did not use metals. About 2000 years ago, a revolution began among some of the San communities in the northern part of present-day Botswana which was based on the acquisition of domestic stock. The part of this San community that acquired sheep and cattle from Bantu-speaking peoples called themselves Khoikhoi (or Khoekhoe) leading a pastoral lifestyle. As the territorial requirements of the herds increased, the Khoikhoi began to move toward the south in search of new pastures (21). The Bantu-speaking peoples encountered by the early Khoikhoi herders in northern Botswana were also establishing themselves within the borders of present-day South Africa. As a result, a part of the Bantu-speakers occupied the northern Transvaal region of present-day Limpopo about 1500 years ago and so co-existed with the Khoikhoi in the Eastern Cape region. Due to the agricultural revolution, the Khoikhoi herders began to form themselves into larger and better organized groups, thus forcing the San hunter-gatherers to either retreat into mountain and desert areas or to establish themselves into robber bands preying on the herds of the Khoikhoi. Finally, the San had a third option namely to enter the Khoikhoi community as servants, hunters, herders and warriors. Due to later domestic stock acquisition and marriage to Khoikhoi women, the San were being accepted as members of the superior Khoikhoi community (23). Therefore, the San and the Khoikhoi are also being referred to as the Khoisan (or Khoesan) people. Concerning their Khoisan languages, the characteristic features of these languages are the autochthonous clicks which were later borrowed into neighbouring south-eastern Bantu languages – Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho (Webb 2002:71).

Today the Khoisan languages are spoken mainly in Namibia and Botswana, whereas in South Africa they were almost extinct by 1994, with no more than about 200 living speakers. Before the arrival of Europeans, the south-eastern coastal region of South Africa was occupied by the Khoisan people, whereas the Bantu-speaking peoples remained settled in the north-western region of South Africa. About 500 years ago, the first to come into contact with Europeans were the Khoisan, who established themselves as the dominant society of the Cape. The Bantu-speaking peoples were the next one to come into contact with Europeans about 400 years ago. In 1488, the Europeans who first appeared in southern Africa were Portuguese (Barker et al. 1995:32). They belonged to a group of explorers who were in search of a sea route to India, thus didn’t stay in the southern coast of Africa permanently. Nevertheless, the Portuguese started trading with the Khoisan people in southern Africa which is why the Portuguese managed to establish a monopoly on Eastern trade. Unfortunately, towards the end of the 15th century the power of Portugal, now united with Spain under Philip II, began to decline (35). During the following century, the monopoly of Eastern trade was taken over by the Dutch East India Company.

But the idea of a permanent settlement of the Dutch in southern Africa developed out of an incident happening in 1647 which forced a shipwrecked crew of the Dutch East India Company to remain ashore on the Cape and await the arrival of the following year’s return fleet. Later, a permanent European settlement on land belonging to the Khoisan came to be established in 1652 and with it, as Roger Lass in his article “South African English” points out, the Dutch East India Company settlers brought Dutch as the first Germanic language spoken to South Africa (Lass in Mesthrie 1995:92). With the permanent Dutch settlement in South Africa, the demise of the Khoisan people began due to genocide, disease, poverty, starvation, trade and intermarriage which later led to the total collapse of these people as separate entities (Webb 2002:71). Consequently, the Khoisan languages underwent almost total language shift, with their languages being replaced by Xhosa, Sotho and Afrikaans (72).

In 1652, because of the indigenous Khoisan communities’ refusal to work as slaves for the Dutch settlers, the Dutch were forced to import slave labour to the Cape from other parts of Africa and the Dutch sea empire. This turned the Cape into a ‘melting pot’ of diverse language varieties due to a heterogeneous slave population (Malan in de Klerk 1996:126). Slaves from Sri Lanka and the south Indian cost spoke languages such as Bengali (of the Indo-European language family) and Tamil (of the Dravidian language family). Of the African slaves, those from Madagascar spoke Malagasy, while those from the west and east African coasts would have spoken a variety of different Bantu languages. In addition, many slaves, African and Asian, had knowledge of Creole Portuguese, which then was the lingua franca of the trade routes. At the Cape colony, a Cape Dutch pidgin (later Afrikaans) evolved as a lingua franca during the 17th and 18th centuries amongst Dutch settlers, slaves and their descendants, as well as those remnants of the Khoikhoi peoples who were co-opted as wage-labourers for the colonists (127).

Besides the permanent Dutch arrival at the Cape in 1652, a second Germanic language namely English was brought to South Africa by the British military forces. This second Germanic invasion happened because of the Cape’s strategic importance for controlling the Cape sea-route to India. Therefore, the British occupied the Dutch colony at the Cape in 1795/96 and after returning it to Holland in 1802, the Cape became British again in 1806[1]. The reason why the British took over the Dutch colony at the Cape was not only the Cape’s strategic value, as I mentioned before, but also its position. Since South Africa was used as a “stepping stone” its position was ideal for trading with India by a short sea-route (Schmied 1991:9). Now, in order to secure South Africa’s strategic “stepping stone” position for trading with India, the British forces had to take over the Cape in 1795/96 and with the ‘1820 Settlers’ the first organized settlements in the Cape took place (Lanham and Macdonald 1979:9). The purpose of this first organized settlement of the ‘1820 Settlers’ was to firmly establish English as a language in the Dutch-speaking colony at the Cape which the British had taken over. In order to succeed in setting up the English language and so anglicizing the Dutch-speaking colony, called Afrikaner community, the proclamation of 1822 by Lord Charles Somerset, who was the governor of the Cape, came to introduce English as the only official language of the colony.

But the proclamation of 1822 did not fully succeed in anglicizing the Dutch community because the English-speaking inhabitants were numerically smaller in comparison to the Dutch citizens. Therefore, during the Great Trek in 1836, the English people tried to maintain English as an official language by recruiting schoolmasters from Britain and Scottish clergymen for the rural schools of the Cape and the Dutch Reformed Church of the colony (Lass in Mesthrie 1995:92). As a consequence, the English language was disseminated as a second language in the Dutch community and was spoken in “public life of the Cape including law, education and entertainment” (Lanham and Macdonald 1979:10). In contrast to this, the Dutch language resisted in rural areas such as farms and in religious as well as domestic life. From this time on, the English and the Dutch language co-existed in the Cape colony. Because of this bilingual co-existence “a Dutch speech pattern was maintained often in the presence of virtual mother-tongue control of English” out of which Afrikaans English evolved (ibid.). So, Afrikaans English being a language consisting of Dutch and English speech patterns that developed after the Great Trek in 1836.

In regard to the contact of black slaves with the English language, a new variety of Black South African English evolved out of this language contact situation that was additionally promoted by the establishment of missionary schools. At these missionary schools blacks were taught English as a second language (next to their native Bantu languages) by native speakers of English (14). So, the British immigrants firmly managed to establish English as a language in South Africa with rural and small town settlements until the 1870’s. Soon after the second settlement of British settlers had arrived in Natal, diamond fields were discovered in Griqualand along the banks of the Orange River in 1867 (Hansen, Carls, Lucko 1996:191). Shortly after that, more diamond fields were discovered in Transvaal promoting a ‘Mineral Revolution’ (1875 onwards) due to which the final immigration wave set in.

For the Boers, as I have already mentioned above, British imperialism with its attendant threat of linguistic and cultural absorption resulted in a strong competition between the British and Dutch colonial powers. This competition promoted a growing nationalist consciousness being mirrored in the founding of the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaanders (Fellowship of True Afrikaners) in 1875. Its purpose was to secure the status of Afrikaans as an autonomous language next to the English language with a standardized orthography and grammar and to raise its social prestige (Malan in de Klerk 1996:129). Consequently, Afrikaans language had become a focal symbol for Afrikaner nationalism in distancing themselves linguistically from any connection to indigenous languages of South Africa and socially from their coloured fellows who shared their language. In the following, due to the discovery of diamonds, Afrikaner nationalism experienced a new challenge in defending their national identity when the British annexed Griqualand in 1871 and Transvaal in 1878 to the British Cape colony in order to mine diamonds unhindered. This annexation especially of Transvaal to the British Cape colony violated the treaty of the Sand River Convention of 1852, which had guaranteed the Boers their independence after them being driven out of Natal (Barker et al. 1995:194). What followed were protests against this annexation that were also used to expand the new political message of shared interests, Boers unity and obedience to ‘real’ leaders. This led to an increase of political consciousness among the Afrikaner community which rapidly evolved into an organized resistance movement. Due to contemporary Afrikaans newspapers such as Die Afrikaans Patriot, feelings of solidarity with the Transvaal republicans arose in the Orange Free State and among the Afrikaner community at the Cape colony (195). Consequently, the support for the cause of the Transvaal republicans by the Cape Afrikaner community meant a probable Boer uprising against the British colonial authorities.

Despite the danger of a war, the British authorities did not change their policy but instead, in order to administer the Transvaal region successfully, introduced a tax-collection system in 1880 which made the conflict worse. Some politicians even feared that the conflict in the Transvaal region could escalate into a Boer uprising in the rest of southern Africa. Therefore, the British Government finally agreed on granting Transvaal restricted self-government in order to avoid war (199). The governor of Natal and south-east Africa, Sir George Pomeroy Colley, was to pass on the offer of Transvaal self-government to the Boer leaders with them having only 48 hours time to react to the offer. Since this was an impossible condition with the Boers’ leadership being spread throughout the territory, the Boers attacked Colley at the top of Majuba (the Hill of Doves) and defeated the British troops. On 3 August 1881, in terms of the Pretoria Convention, the Transvaal republic became a self-governing state and after four years of annexation was united again. This re-uniting experience marked the end of the first South African War also known as the Anglo-Boer War of 1880-81. What followed were the Boers’ founding further political and cultural organizations such as the Afrikaner Bond (1890). The extreme right wing of Afrikanerdom claims to this day a distinct political and cultural identity in which English traditions and principles have little place or none (Branford in de Klerk 1996:38).

With the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in Transvaal in 1886, the British troops tried to annexe Transvaal again in 1895. This attempt of annexation in 1895, also known as the Jameson Raid (Pakenham 1979:xxv), worsened the already existing antipathy between the Boers and the British originating from the annexation of Natal in 1842. As a sequel to the Jameson Raid, the second Anglo-Boer War between the British forces and the Boers evolved in 1899. With the British troops being in the minority, the Boers managed to enter British territory due to their defensive-offensive strategy according to which they weakened the strongest point in the enemy’s attacking force (Pakenham 1979:174). As a result of their defensive-offensive strategy, also known as guerrilla strategy, the Boers invaded both Natal and Cape Colony garrisons, namely Ladysmith, Kimberly and Mafeking, in November 1899. Hence, the British army in South Africa had to be expanded by recruiting troops from the British Empire, e.g. Ireland, Scotland, England, Australia, etc. (257). In February 1900, Field-Marshal Lord Roberts prepared a successful counter invasion to relieve the three besieged garrisons with an army of forty thousand men by imitating the Boers’ guerrilla warfare (327). But what was claimed to be a “White Man’s’ War” implicated a lot of suffering on the part of the black population in the besieged British garrisons, such as Mafeking, since the blacks were exploited as work force, e.g. to dig trenches or to guard the garrison also known as the “Black Watch” (425). The last phase of the war was dominated by General Lord Kitchener’s aim to end the war quickly based on a “sweep-and-scour strategy” (552). In early March 1901, the Boers’ bases for supply were destroyed with their women and children being moved to concentration camps (where thousands died of epidemics) (522-524). However, Kitchener’s methods succeeded as a military policy, resulting in the Boers’ men running away and continuous surrender. Finally, the Boers were defeated by the British troops. Consequently, on 31 May 1902, surrender terms were signed in Pretoria and the delegates voted for peace in the great marquee at Vereeniging (603). Accordingly, Transvaal and the Orange Free State became British colonies but the Boers were still allowed to keep their national identity and Afrikaans language.

In 1910, the British domination ended due to the creation of the Union of South Africa comprising the Cape colony, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State (Malan in de Klerk 1996:130). With the Union Constitution in 1910, English and Dutch (officially renamed Afrikaans in 1924) both became official languages (Hansen, Carls, Lucko 1996:192). Under successive white governments, but most intensively from 1948 under Afrikaner nationalist rule, the process began entrenching already-existing discrimination on grounds of colour through racist legislation. Consequently, a lot of English and Afrikaans speakers who were classified ‘coloured’ were disenfranchised and deprived of basic civil liberties (Malan in de Klerk 1996:131). This was the beginning of the apartheid policy that separated black from white people. From a linguistics stance, the apartheid policy aimed at instructing the black population via the ‘Bantu Education Act’ (1953), in their respective mother-tongue, depending on the province, with the two official languages (English and Afrikaans) being taught later, resulting in a low level of education which restricted blacks in their opportunities (Hansen, Carls, Lucko 1996:193).

However, in 1961, the Afrikaner National Party succeeded in becoming an autonomous country by founding the Republic of South Africa (RSA). In the following, RSA was excluded from the British Commonwealth due to its apartheid policy which granted RSA independence from Great Britain. From now on, the apartheid policy of the RSA aimed at not only separating blacks from whites, but isolating the black people from each other according to ethnic groups. This policy culminated in the founding of ten reservations the so-called Homelands, which were officially excluded from national territory of the RSA receiving autonomy to a small extent (194). In these Homelands the black population were allowed to use Bantu languages as a means of communication next to Afrikaans and English. With the end of the apartheid regime and Nelson Mandela being elected as president of South Africa in 1994, South Africa was no more divided into a ‘white South Africa’ comprising the Cape region, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State and a ‘black South Africa’ comprising the ten Homelands. What followed was a re-organization of South Africa into nine administrative districts, namely Limpopo (former Transvaal), Mpumalanga, Gauteng, North West, Orange Free State, Kwazulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape with the nine Bantu languages becoming officially accepted on a national level.

2.2 Sociolinguistic history of South African English

In this section, I will refer to the English language in South Africa in more detail concerning its phonological properties as sociolinguistic markers (since a given phoneme has a greater text-frequency than any other unit), thus introducing the sociophonetic profile of the mother-tongue English-speaking community.

The first local variety of mother-tongue English originated in the speech of the children of the ‘1820 Settlers’, who were members of the first organized immigration of British settlers to South Africa (Lanham in de Klerk 1996:20). Most of these British settlers were particularly working-class or lower middle-class people, who did not speak Standard English themselves (Schmied 1991:13). Arriving at the Eastern Cape, the settlers spoke different regional varieties from the South East of England out of which a homogeneous speech pattern emerged (Lanham and Macdonald 1979:72). This homogeneous speech pattern was promoted by social levelling and the stressful conditions of social life in an impoverished frontier society. Consequently, the descendants of the ‘1820 Settlers’ remained a frontier society developing a specific vernacular of English at the Cape called Cape Settler English or Settler English. Therefore, Settler English reflected mainly the non-standard speech variety of the majority from the south-eastern part of England including h-dropping and g-dropping (in ing -endings). But this linguistic features of Settler English were soon abandoned due to “continuing allegiance to the […] social values of the mother society”, resulting in hypercorrection and ‘aspirated w’ (73). Further changes in Settler English vernacular at the Eastern Cape originated as a result of contact with the Afrikaner community (a community of Dutch origin also called the Boers) due to intermarriage and social mingling. As a sociolinguistic consequence, this contact led to the development of major phonological variables of Cape Settler English later converting it into Extreme South African English (Extreme SAE). One of the major Settler English phonological variables at the Cape (which later converted into Ext SAE) is the non-approximant norm of ‘obstruent r’ as in red, drive, craze, carry (Lanham and Macdonald 1979:37). The ‘obstruent r’ variable is still commonly realized in Extreme SAE as an alveolar tap in clusters like /tr-/ or /kr-/ and even in all positions so that increasing non-approximant /r/ correlates with increasing Extremeness of the speaker’s code (Lass in Mesthrie 1995:102). However, ‘obstruent r’ entered Cape Settler English in the earliest days of settlement as a result of the accommodation of Settler sons to the Afrikaans English of Afrikaner wives (Lanham and Macdonald 1979:38). Evidently, ‘obstruent r’ is not Afrikaans trilled /r/ but an articulatory compromise made by an adult lacking the neuromuscular skill to produce a trill. Additionally, Settler English provides a tendency to rounding which is typical of the south-eastern variety of Cockney in England including, for example, the ‘backed aa’ that is raised, rounded and shortened as in car, park, last (39).

According to Lanham and Macdonald (1979), there is early evidence of social awareness and probable stigma associated with this variable correlating with a lower class usage in the cities. Today, this ‘backed aa’ variable, after having penetrated Afrikaans in the last century, continues in formal style in Afrikaans without any connotations of social stigma. A further major Settler English variable is the ‘fronted au’ that is glide-weakened as in how, bound, crowd with which a stigmatized pronunciation is similarly associated. As a consequence, this ‘fronted au’ would most prominently be hyper-corrected among females in the Cape region including those having Dutch-English as a second language (40). Another linguistic variable of Settler English with similar social stigma is the backed, raised, glide-weakened /ai/ as in nice, while, I which has the same historical origin as ‘fronted au’ resulting in hypercorrection (41). Besides, Lanham and Macdonald (1979) point out that the deaspiration of stops and the ‘low schwa’ in Settler English (with these features later being taken over by Extreme SAE) developed due to the contact with the Afrikaner community and both appear to be receding although without stigma of a lower social group, since the variables’ origin is in Afrikaans/Dutch. Despite the social mingling with the Afrikaner community, the Settlers’ lack of sophistication, education, etc., in terms of former Victorian social values, promoted a poor sociolinguistic image of Settler English vernacular. In his article Roger Lass (1995) provides a piece of evidence concerning the contemporary Settler English vowel system in referring to the Chronicle of Jeremiah Goldswain who was one of the ‘1820 Settlers’ (Lass in Mesthrie 1995:97). The immigrant’s self-invented spelling is used by Lass to show the following typical Settler English features in comparison to the vowel categories found in the standard lexical sets of TRAP [@], DRESS [e], KIT [i]:

(a) raised TRAP: contractor ‘contractor’, atrected ‘attracted’, lementation ‘lamentation’
(b) lowered DRESS: amadick ‘emetic’, hadge ‘hedge’, sant ‘sent’
(c) raised DRESS: git ‘get’, kittle ‘kettle’, liter ‘letter’
(d) lowered KIT: presner ‘prisoner’, deferent ‘different’, sleped ‘slipped’
(e) retracted KIT: buld ‘build’, busket ‘biscuit’, contunend ‘continued’

Such complex developments of single historical categories of English rural varieties finally led to a shift in South Africa. Therefore, Goldswain’s spellings represent, at least in part, not fixed categorical values, but ‘zones of convergence’ (97).

Apart from that, although the British settlers were a numerically smaller English-speaking community than the Dutch one, the British settlers aimed at anglicizing the Afrikaner community. In 1822 they succeeded in anglicizing the Dutch citizens, called the Boers or Afrikaner, due to a proclamation that set up English as the official language in public life. Still, as I have already mentioned before, the Dutch language was spoken in domestic life which was the basis for the development of Afrikaans English. In 1833, due to a “substantial Anglicisation” (Branford in de Klerk 1996:38), the British abolished slavery in South Africa which was crucial for the agriculture of the Dutch settlers (Hansen, Carls, Lucko 1996:190). As a result of a determined Anglicisation policy, English was declared the only official language of the colony which was being preferred in education and the civil service, while Dutch was prohibited as a medium for instruction in schools. Furthermore, the British introduced a tax system and put an end to the working limitations for black and coloured people. The Dutch settlers (also called the Boers or Afrikaner) regarded all these measures as a threat to their existence and many of them finally decided to leave the Cape colony in order to go to interior regions of South Africa. During the Great Trek (1836-38) when the Boers left the Cape, they first subjugated the indigenous Bantu-speaking tribes (namely the Zulu, the Ndebele and the Pedi) and in the following founded the republic of Natal in 1838. Since the British wanted to extent their power, they first conquered the Dutch republic of Natal in order to have the predominant position in Natal and further annexed Natal to the British Cape colony in 1842. In the following, a second settlement of British settlers took place in Natal over the period 1848-62 (Lanham in de Klerk 1996:21). As a result of this, the Boers were driven out of Natal, so that they were forced to settle in far more interior and northern regions of South Africa which is why they eventually founded the Orange Free State in 1854. In addition to that, the Boers founded the four republics of Potchefstroom, Lydenburg, Zoutpansberg and Utrecht, which joined the South African republic, also called Transvaal, in 1858. This republic was then guaranteed independence by the British in order to secure the British power in Natal. Still, British imperialism with its attendant threat of linguistic and cultural absorption fuelled a growing nationalist consciousness amongst the Boers in which language was to play a key role which I will later discuss in more detail (Malan in de Klerk 1996:129).

In regard to the British settlers who came to Natal during 1848 and 1862, one must admit that they were different from those of the Cape colony concerning their social status. These settlers, coming from Middle England, Yorkshire and Lancashire, in particular, were middle or upper middle-class settlers. Therefore, their language, in contrast to that of the working-class and lower middle-class settlers at the Cape, was very similar to the Standard English of Britain, which is why a specific variety of English, namely Natal English arose. Besides, Natal English, in contrast to Cape Settler English, was being less influenced by Afrikaans speech patterns, since the Afrikaner community was driven out of Natal. Therefore, Natal English was of a higher prestige than Cape Settler English, since it rendered the authentic Southern British Received Standard that is Received Pronunciation (RP) (Lass in Mesthrie 1995:93).

The final major wave of settlers from India, Germany, etc. came from about 1874 – 1904, after the discovery of diamonds and gold in Transvaal. Despite the heterogeneous language varieties of this final settlement, it did not seem to have had major effects in the subsequent development of the English language in South Africa, as the English language had already started developing with the ‘1820 Settlers’. Nevertheless, the Natal settlement, due to a particular set of colonial attitudes towards British norms, was important in promoting the local variety of Natal English as a notion of an authentic British standard variety.


[1] Finally, the British took over the Dutch possession at the Cape by legal treaties in 1815/16.


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Universität Duisburg-Essen
2009 (Juni)
English South Africa Focusing Linguistic Features Black South African English

Titel: English in South Africa
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69 Seiten