Arabic Afrikaans – early standardisation of Afrikaans orthography: A discussion of The Afrikaans of the Cape Muslims by Achmat Davids

  • Ernst Kotzé


In this article, the published Master’s dissertation of the late Achmat Davids on the historical phenomenon of Arabic Afrikaans is examined from a linguistic viewpoint, one of a variety of possible perspectives offered by the material documented and investigated by the author. Of special interest for this perspective is the orthographic basis on which the spoken variety of Afrikaans during the period 1815 to 1915 was based to reflect as accurately as possible the pronunciation of Cape Muslim Afrikaans. Davids’ research is of exceptional importance for a balanced understanding of the sociolinguistic and cultural context within which Arabic Afrikaans functioned as a standardised written language during a time when Afrikaans had no standard romanised orthography. Because of the co-existence of an Arabic and a Roman orthography, the most appropriate system of transliteration was (and still is) of great importance for an understanding of the correct interpretation of the phonetic nature of the Arabic Afrikaans texts (or kitaabs) of this period. Davids undertakes a critical investigation of earlier attempts at the transliteration of, for instance, the Bayaan al-Diin, the earliest extant Arabic Afrikaans text (published in 1877). In this article, in addition to giving recognition to Davids’ historic contribution to Afrikaans diachronic linguistics, his proposed system of transliteration is also critically investigated and evaluated.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2012, 30(3): 413–427

Author Biography

Ernst Kotzé
Research associate, School of Languages, North-West University, Potchefstroom 2520

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614