15.2 South Africa Language Situation.pdf - SOUTH AFRICA...

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SOUTH AFRICA:LANGUAGE SITUATIONMesthrie, Raj. 2006 Source: Brown, Keith (ed.), Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. 2ndedition. Elsevier, 539-542. Official Languages Apartheid was a defining feature of South African society, politics, and linguistic practice for much of the 20th century. The post-apartheid democracy instituted in 1994 ushered in many changes whose consequences are already evident in the early 21st century. These changes are likely to change the social and linguistic hierarchies in the long term. The countrys new constitution of 1996 surprised most observers by its recognition of 11 official languages. Table 1 lists these lan-guages according to numbers of speakers, according to the last census of 2001. Of the official languages, 9 belong to the Bantu subfamily of the Niger Kordofanian languages, and 2 to the Germanic family. The Bantu languages of South Africa fall into two main linguistic subgroups, designated Nguni and Sotho, plus two other languages, Tsonga and Venda. The Nguni languages (Zulu, Xhosa, Swati, Ndebele) are largely mutually intelligible, as are the Sotho lan-guages (Pedi (Northern Sotho), South Sotho, Tswana). Tsonga and Venda are not mutually intel-ligible, either with each other or with the other languages. Many of these languages have official status in neighboring territories, where they are majority languages: Swati in Swaziland, Sotho in Lesotho, and Tswana in Botswana. Ndebele, Tsonga, and Venda are also found in large numbers in neighboring countries: Ndebele in Zimbabwe, Tsonga in Mozambique, and Venda (to a smaller extent) in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The two Germanic languages, Afrikaans and English, are not mutually intelligible, but do share a great deal of cognate lexis. Afrikaans is not always described as a Germanic language, as several linguists have considered it to be a semi-creole. However, reports of mutual intelligibility with Dutch and the ability of ordinary South Africans of diverse backgrounds to service Dutch call centers based in Cape Town suggest that the case for creoli- zation may have been overstated. Table 2 is a regrouping of these languages according to the clustersthey belong to. The table also indicates alternate forms by which these languages may be designated. Of the 11 official languages, two were official state languages in the apartheid era - Afrikaans and English. The other nine had official status in one (or more in the case of Xhosa) of the apartheid homelands.
Table 1: The official languages of South Africa in 2001 by numbers of mother-tongue speakers Language n % Zulu 10 677 306 23.8 Xhosa 7 907 154 17.6 Afrikaans 5 983 426 13.3 Pedi 4 208 982 9.3 Tswana 3 677 016 8.2 English 3 673 197 8.1 South Sotho 3 555 189 7.9 Tsonga 1 992 207 4.4 Swati 1 194 428 2.6 Venda 1 02 I (T9 2.2 Ndebeie 711 818 1.6 Other 217 297 0.4 Total 44819779 (Source: Statistics South Africa)Table 2:The official languages of South Africa in 2001 by linguistic grouping arc number of mother-tongue speakers Nguni languages: Zulu 10,677,306 23.8 (isiZulu) Xhosa 7,907454 17.6 (isixhosa) Swati 1,194,428 2.6 (siSwati; Swazi) Ndebele 711,818 1.6 (isiNdebeie) Total 20,490,706 45.6 Sotho languages: Pedi 4,208,982 9.3

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