Original Articles

Aspects of language contact

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 24, issue 4, 2004 , pages: 203–218
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2004.10587237
Author(s): Pinky Makoe,


The objective of this paper is to report on a research project investigating the language behaviour of Sotho English bilinguals at a South African university. Sotho is used here as an umbrella term to refer to the Sotho group of languages: Sesotho (Southern Sotho), Sesotho sa Leboa (Nothern Sotho) and Setswana. The main aim of the research is to examine the linguistic constraints and social motivations for codeswitching. The research will include distinctions between codeswitching. codemixing and borrowing. At a general level the concept of language contact is the superordinate linguistic and philosophical category underpinning this research. Theoretically the research uses a number of approaches to describe and explain language contact: structuralist, interactionalist and psycho-social approaches, although the dominant framework used here is the structuralist one. Sociologically, the research demonstrates that codeswitching, codemixing and borrowing constitute a variety in which speakers exhibit differing degrees of structured abilities and may be unmarked or marked depending on the extent to which it reinforces or violates community norms.

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