Assessing the English language as a key unifying factor towards the attainment of national unity and security: a case of South Africa’s warring ethnic groups

  • Elijah Mkhatshwa
Keywords: Social identity, Ethnicity, Multilingualism and Conflict


This study argues that English has the potential of being used as a conflict mitigation tool in conflict-prone contexts characterized by linguistic diversity deriving from diverse ethnic groups. To this end, English is capable of assuming the role of a link language and a tool for conflict transformation (Coleman, 2010:13). Thus, in this study, I argue in Kennett’s (2011:315) terms that in a multilingual society “each language, given its geographical boundary, conceives of itself as a mark of social identity. This is accounted for by the fact that “no ethnic group is to be subservient to another ethnic language since the promotion of the ethnic language connotes the promotion of the corresponding ethnic group itself. Thus, using English as a somewhat neutral language in a multilingual society such as South Africa helps forge the desirable collective identity with the view of containing the linguistically antagonistic ethnic groups. English as the language of nationalism. English is thus poised as a sustainable weapon that can bind a multilingual nation. The connotations of nationalism or racism through one or the other national language are absent (Kennett, 2011:315).

Keywords: Social identity, Ethnicity, Multilingualism and Conflict


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eISSN: 1596-9231