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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


VAN RENSBURG, Christo. After a hundred years: The Afrikaans of the first Language Commission. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.2-1, pp.249-270. ISSN 2224-7912.

After a hundred years the Afrikaans of the first Taalkommissie (Language Commission) of 1917 differs radically from the Afrikaans that is covered by the rules contained in the eleventh issue of the Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls (Afrikaans Word List and Spelling Rules) (AWS 11). These differences will in future probably become even greater. The Afrikaans that before 1917 had run its natural course towards becoming the written form, was passed over and a Dutchified Afrikaans was standardised. How did this happen? Circumstances beyond the control of the Afrikaans linguistic community resulted in the standardisation of Afrikaans in 1917. The change in government in Britain in 1905 gave rise to a series of reactions which in 1910 resulted in Unification in South Africa. In the new constitution of the time, English was no longer retained as the only official language but recognition was given to two languages: English and Dutch. Dutch, which then unexpectedly became one of the two official languages of the Union of South Africa, could be accommodated culturally in the Zuid-Afrikaanse Akademie voor Taal, Letteren en Kunst (the South African Academy for Language, Literature and Art) (hereafter referred to as "the Academy"), which was founded in 1909. The language of the Academy was Dutch (in terms of the draft statute). At the founding meeting of the Academy it was proposed that Afrikaans be one of the languages of the Academy. This proposal was not accepted and Afrikaans was perforce included in article 2 of the founding charter with the explanation that it was included with Dutch. The Academy inter alia strove to promote the teaching of Dutch ("'t onderwys van 't Holland") (article 3). Afrikaans was not recognised in the Constitution of the Union or in the Statute of the Academy as an independent language, even though it was the language spoken in the largest area in South Africa during the nineteenth century, by more people than either Dutch or English. Various groupings of Afrikaans-speakers wrote Afrikaans in different ways: in the Bo-Kaap as a religious language (with an adapted Arabic and Malay orthography), in Genadendal, in the Paarl, where middle-class Farming Afrikaans was written - a variety that was customarily used during the nineteenth century and was significantly influenced by Khoi Afrikaans - at mission stations and by newspaper editors and entertainment entrepreneurs. How to standardise these various ways in which Afrikaans was written? This was still music of the future. C.J. Langenhoven in 1914 convinced three of the four Provincial Councils to introduce Afrikaans on the first levels at primary schools, and he undertook to obtain the support of the Academy for this. The Academy had a stated educational responsibility in respect of Dutch. C.J. Langenhoven lay claim to this, but he did so on behalf of Afrikaans. The 1914 annual meeting of the Academy supported C.J. Langenhoven's plan with Afrikaans as language of education and appointed a commission to take care of the writing and spelling of Afrikaans. The use by the pro-Dutch Zuid-AfrikaanscheTaalbond (South African Language Association) of the Simplified Dutch Spelling ("VHS") dominated language education (except for English) in South Africa from 1904.The pro-Afrikaans Afrikaanse Taalvereniging (Afrikaans Language Society) ("ATV") also to a large extent used the VHS spelling system. The Academy's spelling commission was compromised by agreements that C.J. Langenhoven and his supporters had made with the Taalbond and the ATV before the 1909 Annual Meeting so as to obtain their cooperation in order to carry through his education plan, and they had to adhere to the current Dutch writing conventions during the compilation of AWS1, which agreement was protected in a Principle until 1992. These spelling concessions by C.J. Langenhoven resulted in Dutchified written Afrikaans. Afrikaans-speakers continued to speak their different types of Afrikaans, which differed in many respects from the written Standard Afrikaans, and which were increasingly influenced by it. The language of Afrikaans dialects, particularly with a basis of Khoi and Malay, was quite different from Dutch. The Afrikaans of these varieties differed significantly from Standard Afrikaans and was kept out of the standard variety, inter alia on the basis that it was not "customary" or "civilised". Language Commissions, from AWS 3, continued "Afrikaansifications" in the Word Lists, but the consequences of the 1914 Dutchification are still to be found in the spelling of Afrikaans. And AWS 11, after a 100 years? For the first time, after a full century has elapsed, the Preface to AWS 11 confirms that the different varieties of Afrikaans form part of Standard Afrikaans and that the Language Commission encourages the development and use thereof, and that in the long run it may change and modify Standard Afrikaans.

Palavras-chave : Afrikaans word list and spelling rules; Afrikaansification; dialects; Dutchification; Khoi-Afrikaans; Language commission; standardising; stigmatizing.

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