A PROJECT FUNDED BY THE SOUTH AFRICA NETHERLANDS PROGRAMME FOR ALTERNATIVES IN DEVELOPMENT. BASED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN.
TITLE: SOUTH AFRICAN INFORMAL URBAN LANGUAGE VARIETIES: THE NATIONAL PICTURE
Main aim and objectives
South African urban townships are characterised by a high degree of language mixing. Language in these contexts is dynamic, and ‘standard’ forms of languages such as Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana and Pedi are being increasingly replaced by urban forms. In addition, ‘youth languages’ have long been a feature of the townships, and appear to inform and even drive linguistic change. This project is intended to identify the current status of South African urban linguistic varieties which fall broadly under the moniker ‘Tsotsitaal’, to ascertain the feasibility of recent appeals to make Tsotsitaal a national language and to identify barriers to prevent Tsotsitaal achieving legitimacy, for example, gendered access, lack of consistent lexical and syntax features, and sub cultural alignment.
Main research question
What would it entail to make Tsotsitaal a national language?
- Identify to what extent Tsotsitaal can be described as one language.
- Analyse how Tsotsitaal differs from urban varieties and code-switching in multilingual township contexts.
- Document the demographic coverage in respect of age, gender, and region in the research sites.
- Discover how it is being used in social institutions such as schools, households, judicial systems and the media.
- Problematise how the sub cultural or anti-language character of Tsotsitaal challenges standardisation.
- Identify how Tsotsitaal is viewed by speakers (implicitly and explicitly) and by non-speakers.