Bilingualism and language shift in Western Cape communities

  • Christine Anthonissen Department of General Linguistics, Stellenbosch University


This paper considers a number of pertinent sociolinguistic aspects of a distinct process of languageshift recently noted in some historically Afrikaans first language (L1) communities established in theCape Metropolitan area. Particularly, it considers qualitatively how a number of families madedeliberate choices to change the family language from Afrikaans L1 to English L1. It elaborates on anexploratory study undertaken in 2003, adding data collected in 2008 and 2009, investigating linguisticrepertoire and language choice in a number of families where there has been contact between Englishand Afrikaans over a number of generations. The aim, eventually, is to characterise the nature of theperceived process of language shift. The paper considers how widespread use of both English andAfrikaans in communities that until recently were predominantly Afrikaans, impacts on linguisticidentities. It reports on structured interviews with members of three generations of families whocurrently exhibit English-Afrikaans bilingualism where members of the younger generation are morefluent in English. It finds that there is evidence of language shift, it reports on the circumstances thatmotivate such shift, and concludes that the third generation presents either a monolingual Englishidentity where Afrikaans has a decidedly second language status, or a strong English-dominantbilingual identity.Keywords : bilingualism, family language, language shift, language identity
How to Cite
Anthonissen, C. (2012). Bilingualism and language shift in Western Cape communities. Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus, 38.
II. Multilingualism in public discourse | Mehrsprachigkeit im öffentlichen Sprachgebrauch