Imitated Black Afrikaans: context and perceptions of the alternative use of Black Afrikaans

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Black Afrikaans is a dialectic non-mother-tongue variety of Afrikaans (De Wet 1993:171, 1996:7; Du Plessis 1987:24–5), Imitated Black Afrikaans is used when Afrikaans mother-tongue speakers imitate Black Afrikaans, among one another. This is different from the original form and function of Black Afrikaans fulfilling the role of a supplementary language between African language mother-tongue speakers and Afrikaans mother-tongue speakers. The employment of Imitated Black Afrikaans is therefore considered as an alternative use of Black Afrikaans. The context of and the perceptions surrounding Imitated Black Afrikaans have not yet been described extensively in existing literature.

This article first provides a theoretical overview of what the alternative use of Black Afrikaans entails, after which the context and perceptions of the alternative use of Black Afrikaans are empirically investigated. In this study Black Afrikaans used in this way is considered to be a language variety in itself and Imitated Black Afrikaans is proposed as a name for the variety. The article serves as a follow-up to Maritz (2016), in which the functions and a basic linguistic description of Imitated Black Afrikaans are discussed. Both articles are based on Maritz’s 2015 master’s dissertation (written under her maiden name, Kriel).

The study involves a qualitative investigation to be able to bring into account the relevant social and cultural contexts. The data was inductively analysed by means of grounded theory. The main goal of the study was to investigate the context around and the perceptions of Imitated Black Afrikaans and to determine the interaction between these two factors.

The study was done with students from the Potchefstroom campus of the North-West University. It was conducted using questionnaires given to students in Afrikaans mother-tongue classes, a focus group interview with brown Afrikaans mother-tongue students and e-mail interviews with two black Afrikaans mother-tongue students. After the data had been gathered, the questionnaires were electronically organised and the focus group interview was transcribed. The information was coded with the help of Atlas.ti qualitative data analysis software, after which hermeneutic networks were compiled to present the analysed data.

After the investigation was completed, the following findings emerged: The contextual elements can be organised into macro- and micro-contexts. The macro-context, in this case mainly the socio-historical background of South Africa, influences the perceptions speakers have of Black Afrikaans and often also their perceptions of Imitated Black Afrikaans. Elements of micro-contexts, within which a speaker uses Imitated Black Afrikaans, are also influenced by these perceptions. An interplay between contexts and perceptions can be identified accordingly. A schema to illustrate the maintenance of stereotyping is presented as an addition to Chick’s (1995:238) model of the cycle of socially constructed discrimination.

The connection between speakers’ language repertoires and the variety bound to certain contexts, the influence of speakers’ perceptions regarding language ownership, language barriers and the influence this has on Imitated Black Afrikaans is apparent. The importance of the individual’s reference framework and the environment in which speakers are comfortable using this variety are also pointed out as factors to be considered.

Perceptions surrounding Black Afrikaans have an influence on the time and place speakers are comfortable using Imitated Black Afrikaans or not, and the overall, general context determines the perceptions surrounding Imitated Black Afrikaans. The identified contexts influencing the use and role players in the variety could also be applicable to other, similar language varieties, e.g. Black South African English. Knowledge of the broader and more specific contextual use and perceptions surrounding the imitation of Black Afrikaans contributes to the awareness of the sensitivity that could surround similar language varieties and speakers should keep it in mind when choosing to converse in a specific language variety. As Makoni and Pennycook (2007:27) point out, our understanding of the social and political aspects of language is not just important to better understand a language, but it is also important for situations where the way we think about a language can be changed.

Keywords: Black Afrikaans; context; interlanguage; Imitated Black Afrikaans; language perceptions; pidgin; Pidginised Afrikaans

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: Napraatswartafrikaans: konteks en persepsies van die alternatiewe gebruik van Swartafrikaans

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