Ethnicity in Linguistic Variation: White and Coloured Identities in Afrikaans-English Code-Switching

Gerald Stell


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 Africas 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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