Ethnicity in linguistic variation: White and coloured identities in Afrikaans-English code-switching

Gerald Stell

Abstract

The Afrikaans speech community is characterized by a long-standing rift between Whites and Coloureds, and is for a large part bilingual, with English being increasingly integrated in its stylistic repertoire. Yet, the history of English is different across the White/Coloured divide, as in particular in terms of diffusion and in terms of ideological associations. The question we wish to ask is twofold. First, how far may there be a question of ethnic norms of Afrikaans-English code-switching? Second, if norms of code-switching are different across the ethnic divide, is code-switching used differently in the negotiation of White and Coloured identities? This contribution is organized in three main parts. First, we give an overview of the different norms of Afrikaans-English code-switching encountered across Whites and Coloureds on the basis of a corpus of informal speech data. Then we give an overview of the sequential patterns of Afrikaans-English code-switching following a CA methodology. Finally, we determine with the help of macrosocial knowledge in how far these different forms and functions of Afrikaans-English code-switching are made relevant to the projection of White and Coloured identities in South Africa’s current post-Apartheid context on the basis of select individual examples. The results of our analysis indicate that Afrikaans-English code-switching in the Coloured data displays the features of a ‘mixed code’, which is perceived as a ‘we-code’, where English input tends to be stylistically neutral. By contrast, English input is more syntactically and sequentially salient in the White data, and more visibly serves purposes of identity-negotiation. Despite those differences, there remains a clear correlation in both White and Coloured samples between the use of English monolingual code and affiliation with ‘New South African values’.

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