The effect of tertiary study at an English medium university on the written English

  • Jean Parkinson Science Faculty, University of Natal


Increasing numbers of South African students speak a variety of English known as Black South African English (BSAfE). Lectures, notes and textbooks are in Standard English, and might be expected to influence the written English of students. Students are under pressure to produce “correct” English, as assignments and exams containing too many non-standard constructions may be misunderstood by lecturers or possibly viewed as ungrammatical and thus worthy of fewer marks. This article finds little change in the variety of English used by science students in response to exposure to standard South African English over a period of two to five years. It speculates that this may reflect a positive attitude towards BSAfE influenced perhaps by the use of BSAfE by government officials and a rapidly growing group of successful middle-class South Africans. Secondly, it finds a high level of variability in use of the constructions studied. It suggests that this may be because much of the English heard by students remains BSAfE, reinforcing variability in the grammars of the participants. Finally, this high level of variability indicates that it is too early in the development of BSAfE to talk of restandardisation of English in South Africa.

Keywords: Black South African English, restandardisation, language variability, grammatical accuracy.

[Jnl for Language Teaching Vol.37(2) 2003: 249-267]

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0259-9570