South African Journal of African Languages

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Evolution of S’ncamtho greetings: Bulawayo urban youth innovations of greeting genres over time

Sambulo Ndlovu


Bulawayo as a transport network-based urban settlement has been a conglomeration of cultures since it became an urban centre. Bulawayo urbanites have always spoken urban isiNdebele, which is a vernacular with a youth and urban bias. The isiNdebele-based urban youth language is generally called isiTsotsi (criminal code), just like Tsotsitaal in South Africa. The specific lingonym for the Bulawayo youth variety is iS’ncamtho taken from the old isiNguni word ukuqamunda (to talk). One of the markers of iS’ncamtho which distinguishes it from standard isiNdebele is its greeting genres. This article explores S’ncamtho greetings over time in the Bulawayo space and tries to unearth the S’ncamtho greeting genres in different historical periods in the city. The compositional content for S’ncamtho greetings has changed over time and continues to change; this change has created a situation where there are now old and new S’ncamtho greetings. This research collected S’ncamtho greetings in Bulawayo from 1970 to 2015, and traces their structural and usage evolution with the aim of classifying them into different time periods.
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