The Impact of economic development on rural Afrikaans dialects in Kai !Garib
Mark De vos (Department of English Language and Linguistics Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa)
In South Africa’s rural Northern Cape, dialectal speech communities are under sustained economic, social and linguistic pressure. Globalization is evidenced by the expansion of commercial export agriculture and eco-tourism which impact on urbanization and concomitant rural depopulation. Urbanization is also fuelled by local dynamics of land ownership and drought. Since 1994, more than 3.2 million farm workers been displaced, an increase of over 700 000 from the preceding decade (Nkuzi Development Association 2007). This inhibits the sustainability of rural varieties and increases language-contact with urban varieties, possibly leading to language shift. In addition, political imperatives have resulted in a normative language situation where standard Afrikaans is promoted in education and media at the expense of non-standard varieties. Owing to apartheid policies (1948—1994), standard Afrikaans was colonized as a ‘white’ variety. The victims of this process are those Afrikaners who do not speak standard Afrikaans and who were thereby excluded from ‘white’ Afrikaner linguistic identity.
As a preliminary study, I conducted interviews at 5 locations in the Kai !Garib District of the Northern Cape using questionnaires and interviews based on the SAND field instrument (Cornips & Jongenburger 2001; Barbiers, Cornips & Kunst 2005). The informants were 15 monolingual Afrikaans speakers from working class backgrounds, older than 50 years of age, and who had spent no longer than 7 years outside the region. By comparing the results with earlier dialectal studies done in the area (Fourie 1985, Henning 1983, Van Rensburg 1984, Verhoef 1988,), I was able to assess the extent to which language shift has occurred.
The results are surprising. Amongst my informants there is little indication of language shift towards the standard. Informants all reported a high number of known dialectal markers (e.g. grammaticalized loop and N–goed constructions) in their speech indicating that the regional variety is still widely used. Even known linguistic markers (e.g. non-IPP in past-participle constructions) which are actively discouraged in the national education system are extremely common. However, a diglossic situation may be developing. Itinerant farm workers use the highest number of regional dialectal features despite their high geographic mobility while `ordinary’ working class informants are increasingly able to use both dialectal and standard forms. The implication is that globalization and concomitant development have not resulted in large-scale linguistic change up to this point although I am not able to ascertain the extent to which it has impacted younger members of the speech community