African English. South African English

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The English language as used in the Republic of South Africa, the first language of c. 10% (about 2.7m) of the total population of the RSA.
Until 1994, with AFRIKAANS, it was one of the two official languages; in that year, nine indigenous languages became official: Ndebele, Pedi, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. In the following discussion, South African English focuses primarily on the usage of South Africans for whom English is their first language.

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African English

South African English


  • The English language as used in the Republic of South Africa, the first language of c. 10% (about 2.7m) of the total population of the RSA. 
    Until 1994, with AFRIKAANS, it was one of the two official languages; in that year, nine indigenous languages became official: Ndebele, Pedi, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. In the following discussion, South African English focuses primarily on the usage of South Africans for whom English is their first language. 




  • SAfrE is typically nonrhotic, but may become RHOTIC or partially so in speakers strongly influenced by AFRIKAANS ENGLISH. These may have final postvocalic /r/ and a medial /r/ as trill or tap. Lanham has observed an initial obstruent (fricative) /r/, in such phrases as red, red rose, in older speakers in the Eastern Cape.Variations in ACCENT depend usually on education, social class, domicile (rural or urban), and accommodation to speakers of varieties different from one's own.Conservative middle-class accents remain close to RP, though typically with the lowering and retraction (in certain phonetic contexts) of the vowel in RP bit, pin to a position approaching that of SCHWA /ə/, in varying degrees. The vowel of RP goose is often central rather than back. 



  • In a class of LOANWORDS from Afrikaans, such as the interjection ga (/xa/) expressing disgust, and gedoente (fuss, bustle), most speakers use a borrowed velar or palatal fricative like the sound in ScoE loch. In another loan class, of words such as bakkie (light delivery van) and pap (porridge), there is a vowel between those of RP but and hot. The precise extent of Afrikaans influence on the sound system and other aspects of SAfrE is a matter of controversy. In many cases, such as the vowel of the trap class, there seem to have been convergent influences from English settler dialects, Dutch/Afrikaans, and in some cases African languages. 




  • The syntax of formal SAfrE is close to that of the international standard. Colloquial SAfrE, however, has many features, such as: Sentence initiators such as affirmative no, as in How are you?—No, I'm fine, probably from Dutch/Afrikaans, and the emphatic aikona as in Aikona fish (‘No fish today’), of Nguni (Bantu) origin. The common informal phrase ja well no fine (yes well no fine) has been adopted in solid written form as an affectionate expression of ridicule (jawellnofine) for broad SAfrE usage, and has served to name a South African television programme.
  • The suffixed phrase and them, as in We saw Billy and them in town (‘Billy and the others’), a form found also in Caribbean varieties.
  • Busy as a progressive marker with stative verbs
  • The all-purpose response is it?, as in She had a baby last week.—Is it? 
    Extensive use of Afrikaans ‘modal adverbs’, such as sommer (‘just’) in We were sommer standing around. 






  • SAfrE has borrowed freely. A rough estimate of source languages for distinctively South African words is: Dutch/Afrikaans 50%, English 30%, African languages 10%, other languages 10%. The most recent years show an increasing proportion of items of English or African-language origin. Most of the SAfrE items best known internationally, such as Afrikaner, boer, trek, and veld, are of Dutch/Afrikaans origin.  
    Most topic areas reflect the wide range of peoples and cultures of past and present-day South Africa.  



West African Pidgin English 


West African Pidgin English

West African Pidgin English


  • West African Pidgin English, also called Guinea Coast Creole English, was the lingua franca, or language of commerce, spoken along the West African coast during the period of the Atlantic slave trade. British slave merchants and local African traders developed this language in the coastal areas in order to facilitate their commercial exchanges, but it quickly spread up the river systems into the West African interior because of its value as a trade language among Africans of different tribes. Later in its history, this useful trading language was adopted as a native language by new communities of Africans and mixed-race people living in coastal slave trading bases like James Island, Bunce Island, Elmina Castle, Cape Coast Castle, and Anomabu. At that point, it became a creole language.



  • West African Pidgin English arose during the period when the British dominated the Atlantic slave trade in the late 17th and 18th centuries, ultimately exporting more slaves to the Americas than all the other European nations combined.



  • Like other pidgin and creole languages, West African Pidgin English took the majority of its vocabulary from its target language (English), and much of its sound system, grammar, and syntax from the local substrate languages (West African Niger–Congo languages).
  • The English dialect that served as the target language (or lexifier) for West African Pidgin English was not the speech of Britain's educated classes, though, but the Nautical English spoken by the British sailors who manned the slave ships that sailed to Africa. Nautical speech contained words from British regional dialects as well as specialized ship vocabulary. Evidence of this early nautical speech can still be found in the modern pidgin and creole languages derived from West African Pidgin English. In Sierra Leon Krio, for instance, words derived from English regional dialects include padi ("friend"), krabit ("stingy"), and berin ("funeral"). Words from specialized ship vocabulary include kohtlas ("machete"), flog ("beat," "punish"), eys [from "hoist"] ("to lift"), and dek ("floor").


The variety of pidgin and creole languages


  • The various pidgin and creole languages still spoken in West Africa today—the Aku language in The Gambia, Sierra Leone Krio, Nigerian Pidgin English, Ghanaian Pidgin, Cameroonian Pidgin English, Fernando Poo Creole English, etc. -- are all derived from this early West African Pidgin English. Indeed, these contemporary English-based pidgin and creole languages are so similar that they are sometimes grouped together under the name "West African Pidgin English," though the term applies more properly to the trade language spoken on the West African coast two hundred years ago.

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