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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
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ODENDAAL, Gerda. Should Afrikaans be restandardised?. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2014, vol.54, n.4, pp.656-674. ISSN 2224-7912.

Given the international tendency towards democracy, the relevance of standard languages, which are undeniably ideological and discriminatory in nature, is increasingly being questioned. In the Afrikaans speech community the legitimacy of Standard Afrikaans has been questioned since the 1980s due to its association with apartheid. In recent times this awareness of the politicisation of Standard Afrikaans has led some Afrikaans linguists to ask the question whether or not Afrikaans should be restandardised. In an attempt to provide an answer to this question, this paper investigates whether or not restandardisation is desirable from a sociolinguistic viewpoint. This is done by giving an overview of why Standard Afrikaans is not seen as being representative of the entire Afrikaans speech community since the 1980s, why it is necessary that the standard be redefined, and lastly, what the restandardisation of Afrikaans would entail in outline. There are various reasons why Afrikaans is not representative of the entire Afrikaans speech community, the first being that standardisers relied heavily on Dutch during the standardisation process. By introducing many Dutch loan words into Afrikaans and relying heavily on the Dutch morphosyntacticpattern, the natural development of Afrikaans was disturbed. This Dutchification of Standard Afrikaans gave the standard an artificial nature which made it difficult for speakers of Afrikaans to learn. As a result of anti-British sentiments after the South African War, the standardisation of Afrikaans was also characterised by opposition against Anglicisms in Afrikaans. An attempt was made to remove as many traces of English influence on Afrikaans as possible, thereby denying the real language contact situation. This anti-English attitude further alienated speakers from the standard and led to diglossia in the Afrikaans speech community. Lastly, the vernacular varieties of Afrikaans, especially those spoken by coloured speakers of Afrikaans, were disregarded during standardisation. Not only was Standard Afrikaans appropriated as a "white man's" language, but it was also based on Eastern Cape Afrikaans, which was mainly spoken by white speakers of Afrikaans. The stigmatisation of the vernacular varieties of Afrikaans led to discrimination against the speakers of these varieties on a social, educational and economic level. Vernacular speakers were marginalised as they were often excluded from all language domains for higher functions and have difficulty acquiring the standard language. Seeing as standardisation inhibits variation and strives towards uniformity of linguistic form, one could argue that the standard language cannot be representative of the entire speech community. This view on the standard language as a seemingly innocent variety ignores the fact that standardisation is ideologically motivated, as it favours the elite in a given speech community. This elitist situation is, however, no longer tenable in a democratic society. At the same time, one cannot deny that standard languages play an important role in the political, economic and educational life of a speech community. As democratising language planning, restandardisation can play an important role in resolving this tension in the standard language. As deliberate language planning from above and from below, aimed at revising the form and function of a standard language and influencing the linguistic behaviour of a speech community in order to create a democratic standard, restandardisation is aimed at correcting some social injustice or another in the speech community by standardising the language from a broader varietal base, thereby making the standard language more inclusive and empowering all speakers. This implies that Standard Afrikaans should be redefined in order to include all varieties of Afrikaans, as well as lessening the influence of Dutch on Afrikaans and giving recognition to the influence of English on Afrikaans. Although the Dutch burden on Standard Afrikaans has been lifted to a certain extent over the past years, there are Dutchisms in Afrikaans which make the language unnecessarily formal and alienate speakers. The restandardisation of Afrikaans thus entails that Dutch should no longer be used as norm for Afrikaans. Over the years there has also been greater realism with regard to the influence of English on Afrikaans, but there are still many English loans missing in Standard Afrikaans which have been prevalent in the vernacular for many years. The restandardisation of Afrikaans should lead to a greater acceptance of English influence on Afrikaans, as English often has an enriching effect on Afrikaans. Disregard of this influence may alienate speakers to such an extent that they decide to use English because they have difficulty acquiring Standard Afrikaans. Lastly, there has also been an increased acceptance of other varieties of Afrikaans into the standard. However, much still needs to be done, since especially coloured speakers of Afrikaans feel like strangers in their own language. Standard Afrikaans should be broadened to include not only lexical items from the vernacular varieties of Afrikaans, but also give recognition to grammatical differences. Restandardisation would further require that norms be determined in a democratic manner, so that all speakers may have a say in the structure of the standard. In this way, restandardisation can be utilised to reform Standard Afrikaans in order to serve the entire speech community, thereby reflecting the democratic ideals of society.

Keywords : restandardisation; standardisation; Standard Afrikaans; politicised; Dutchification; Anglicism; diglossia; variety; elite closure; marginalisation; democratisation; empower; inclusive.

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