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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


KOTZE, Ernst. The story of Afrikaans - out of Europe and from Africa, Part 2 by WAM Carstens and RH Raidt. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2019, vol.59, n.4, pp.588-598. ISSN 2224-7912.

As part of a two-volume publication, Die storie van Afrikaans - uit Europa en van Afrika (The story of Afrikaans - out of Europe and from Africa), this publication, together with its predecessor, probably represents the most comprehensive historiography of this language ever. It provides a plethora of information, as well as access to a wide variety of resources about Afrikaans. This article links on to Jac Conradie's thorough review of Part 1 (chapters 1-11) in Litnet, and takes cognisance of a general review on the language political aspects of the publication as a whole by Joan Hambidge in Rapport, but concentrates on the content of Part 2 (chapters 12-24). The authors approach the publication under discussion from a number of different perspectives: (1) linguistic, with reference to the nature of language and the development of linguistics as a science, (2) geolinguistic, in providing an overview of the distribution of languages across the world, indicating where Afrikaans fits in, (3) historical-linguistic, in which the "stirps" of Afrikaans within the genealogical classification of languages are traced, and (4) socio-historical, in which history serves as a framework for an understanding of the way Afrikaans came into being as a language of/in this country. The point of departure is the premiss that a form of the Dutch dialect of South Holland was brought to the Cape in the 17th century and formed the basis of what eventually became Afrikaans. Within the theoretical framework of language change, a variety of theories are discussed, on the basis of empirical data. In chapter 12 the prehistory of the native soil of Afrikaans is described. A multi-faceted approach is in evidence here, in which a threefold distinction is made between the paleontological history of the subcontinent, the cultural-historical history of the region, and the specifically linguistic and socio-historical development of Afrikaans. The next chapter chiefly deals with the language conditions in the 17th and the 18th centuries at the Cape, showing how the interaction between social, economic, cultural and political circumstances, on the one hand, and the increasing multilingualism, on the other, determined the evolution of the Cape Dutch lingua franca. The next two chapters describe how Afrikaans spread across the interior of the country and further afield, became increasingly diversified, developed from a vernacular to a cultural language, and, inter alia resulting from political factors, such as British colonialism, became a nationalistic marker of identity and a stimulus for the awakening of Afrikaner nationalism. This would eventually result in the Anglo Boer War, which in various respects represents a turning point in history and a division between (and at the same time a transition between) two language movements. A whole chapter (16) is dedicated to the role of these movements as a process of language sensitisation (in both the 19th and the 20th centuries) in pursuit of the recognition in 1925 of Afrikaans as official language, the subject of the next three chapters. The need for the acquisition of higher functions was the next step, functions such as language of education at all levels, the church, the Bible, the judicature, parliament and politics, the Public Service, economy, advertising, the media, labour, culture and recreation, literature and other forms of art, science and technology. A natural corollary was the standardisation of terminology and appropriate norms of usage for various registers, as in the case of established official languages. Chapter 20 covers the political direction followed during the post-1948 period by the Nationalist Party, and especially the disastrous results regarding the use of Afrikaans as medium for the application of apartheid. This is contrasted by the fortunes of the language (including the loss of functions) in the political dispensation after 1994, and exposes the baseless idealism of multilingualism as guiding principle in the early days. Initially, there were some reason for optimism in this regard, such as the language provisions of the 1996 Constitution, the establishment (in terms of the Constitution) of PanSALB and other structures, and the National Language Plan and Language Act. The authors indicate how the lack of political will and support to implement multilingualism represented (and still represents) a root cause of the disturbing decline of the role of Afrikaans in society, also in the Afrikaans language community. In chapter 22, the authors provide a compendium on South Africa in order to report as comprehensively as possible on the linguistic and ethnic demography of the country, as well as a host of other factors, positive and negative. A number of facts and perceptions on the role of Afrikaans and speakers of Afrikaans are mentioned as a basis of discussion on "the case for Afrikaans". This then leads to a reflection on the division of the South African society on the basis of race, and especially on the division between the brown and white speakers of Afrikaans. In particular, mention is made of the founding of the Afrikaanse Taalraad (Afrikaans Language Board) in 2008, which resolutely pursues reconciliation and inclusivity, and embodies these principles in its composition and modus operandi. The penultimate chapter consists of a selection of significant themes regarding Afrikaans and politics, with a view to what lies ahead in the 21st century, while the last chapter presents a "wider view" of the history of the language, in which the part played by brown and black speakers in the many components of community life in South Africa is highlighted, not only in the documented history of events, but also in the more recent past. While a number of editorial corrections could be (and are) pointed out in the article, the work clearly represents an apogee in the documentation of the weal and woe of Afrikaans over the many decades of its existence in this country. The book reflects the complex nature of language issues in the country, not only by exposing the historical dimension by way of new perspectives, but also by means of an informed evaluation of the current situation and the challenges facing the language and its speakers. The structuring of the contents within each chapter forms a solid framework of presentation, and includes a variety of different (and supplementary) viewpoints on the topic to be subsequently discussed. One of the major gains is the inclusion of primary data which would have been difficult to come by for the general reader, and particularly the impressive range of source references (also by utilising the internet). This is indeed a treasurehouse of information about the vicissitudes and fate of Afrikaans as a significant Germanic language of Africa.

Keywords : Afrikaans; Anglicisation; Anglo-Boer War; apartheid; British colonisation; Dutch; Dutch East India Company; historical linguistics; Khoi languages; language and race; language functions; language history; languages in contact; official status; reconciliation; slavery; social history; South Africa; standardisation; The Great Trek.

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