Bilingualism and language shift in Western Cape communities

  • Christine Anthonissen
Keywords: bilingualism, family language, language shift, language identity


This paper considers a number of pertinent sociolinguistic aspects of a distinct process of language shift recently noted in some historically Afrikaans first language (L1) communities established in the Cape Metropolitan area. Particularly, it considers qualitatively how a number of families made deliberate choices to change the family language from Afrikaans L1 to English L1. It elaborates on an exploratory study undertaken in 2003, adding data collected in 2008 and 2009, investigating linguistic repertoire and language choice in a number of families where there has been contact between English and Afrikaans over a number of generations. The aim, eventually, is to characterise the nature of the perceived process of language shift. The paper considers how widespread use of both English and Afrikaans in communities that until recently were predominantly Afrikaans, impacts on linguistic identities. It reports on structured interviews with members of three generations of families who currently exhibit English-Afrikaans bilingualism where members of the younger generation are more fluent in English. It finds that there is evidence of language shift, it reports on the circumstances that motivate such shift, and concludes that the third generation presents either a monolingual English identity where Afrikaans has a decidedly second language status, or a strong English-dominant bilingual identity.

Keywords: bilingualism, family language, language shift, language identity


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eISSN: 2224-3380