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<i>IsiNgqumo</i> – Introducing a gay Black South African linguistic variety

Stephanie Rudwick
Mduduzi Ntuli


‘Lavender linguistics' in South Africa experienced a recent breakthrough with Cage's pioneering 2003 publication of ‘Gayle – the language of kinks & queens'. What is however still lacking is research into the indigenous African gay speech variety that Cage identified as the ‘black' equivalent to Gayle, namely isiNgqumo. In this paper we take up the task of introducing isiNgqumo while interrogating the following questions: If we trust the data collected thus far which suggests that there is a linguistically identifiable gay black South African variety which is an African equivalent to the English-based Gayle, which linguistic term shall be used to best identify this variety? Second, there is the question of description: How is it possible to provide sound and comprehensive lexical and grammatical analyses and descriptions of the ‘language'? To find answers to these two central research questions, we draw from empirical findings based on data collection in KwaZulu-Natal, while relying on selected theoretical approaches to sociolinguistic and queer terminology. This paper presents a first discussion of isiNgqumo as a linguistic variety thus far ignored in South African research and argues that from a sociological perspective it constitutes a ‘language' for most of its speakers.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2008, 26(4): 445–456