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Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

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Gender aspects of bilingualism: language choice patterns of Zulu-speaking rural youth

Dhalialutchmee Appalraju, Elizabeth de Kadt

Abstract


The past decade has seen a reawakening of interest in the ways in which gender impacts on bilingualism and language change, as first demonstrated by Gal (1978). In this article, language choice patterns of some Zulu-speaking school pupils from the rural community of Murchison on the KwaZulu-Natal South coast are investigated from a perspective of gender. By means of questionnaires, pupils were asked to indicate their choice of English and Zulu for a range of speaking partners, domains and social contexts. The results show that the formerly monolingual community of Murchison has made substantial strides towards bilingualism. Although both male and female pupils are involved in this transition, these self-reports indicate that male pupils are particularly active proponents of both cultural and language shift towards English, whereas female pupils tend to retain their use of Zulu to a much greater extent. These differing language practices are considered in terms of gender identities. Using English assists young men in constructing a masculine identity which prioritises modernity, upward social mobility and success in the job market. The much higher female retention of Zulu, on the other hand, constructs a more traditionalist feminine identity typically associated with the home and the maintenance of Zulu culture.


(S/ern Af Linguistics & Applied Language Stud: 2002 20(3): 135-145)



http://dx.doi.org/10.2989/16073610209486306
AJOL African Journals Online