Original Articles

A socio-historical overview of codeswitching studies in the African languages

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 19, issue 1, 1999 , pages: 60–72
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.1999.10587383
Author(s): Sarah SlabbertDept of Afrikaans & Nederlands,, Rosalie FinlaysonDept of African Languages,


South African studies in codeswitching (CS) have tended to follow the history of African linguistics. They also run parallel with studies on CS in the rest of Africa. A socio- historical critique of language contact phenomena reveals perspectives that have evolved hand in hand with the social history, not only of South Africa but also of colonial and postcolonial Africa. This would explain for example the emphasis on the interaction between the colonial languages and the indigenous languages in CS patterns which is a typical feature of CS studies in Africa and other post-colonial societies. The more recent trend to focus on CS between the African languages themselves should further be regarded as a function of socio-historical development. Extensive CS on its part raises theoretical questions about language change, language shift, convergence, the pragmatic issues that are associated with each of them and their effects on the social fibre of Southern Africa.

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