Language policy and planning in South Africa must be seen within the context of the country's sociolinguistic complexity and the relationship between language and a number of serious problems in the country. South Africa's sociolinguistic complexity is a function of a number of factors: 1) a multiplicity of languages and cultures; 2) the overlapping demographical and geographical distribution of the country's major languages; and 3) the politicization of these languages and cultures due to both the colonial past and the policy of apartheid, and the differentiated linguistic manifestation of their politicization (Webb,1994). South Africa is one of the few countries in the world, and the only country in Africa, which has seen, during the 20th Century, the development of a language from one which had no governmental recognition, and existed largely in spoken form, to one in which substantial parts of the government, the national economy, and higher education were run. The population of South Africa is not only multiracial but it is also multilingual. It is estimated that about 25 languages are spoken within South Africa’s borders (Mesthrei, 2006). Historical Background
In 1924, Afrikaans, a relatively new, hybridized language in use for only about eight years at the time, became one of the official languages of South Africa. Prior to 1924, English was the only official language in South Africa. In 1948, the infamous policy of apartheid became the law of the land in South Africa (De Kadt, 2006). The apartheid ideology called for the division of South Africa's people according to their racial/ ethnic group affiliation and geographic residence. As South Africans were increasingly and systematically separated from each other, the apartheid-based idea of nationalism based on language was also promoted. By stressing language and cultural differences among the nation's Black population, which includes members of African ethnic groups, persons of mixed race (Coloreds),...
References: De Kadt, J. (2006). Language development in South Africa–past and present. The Politics of Language in South Africa. Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers, 40-56.
Mesthrie, R. (2006). South Africa: Language Situation. In Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics (Second Edition), edited by Keith Brown, Elsevier, Oxford, 539-542
Webb, V. (1994). Language policy and planning in South Africa. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 14, 254-273.
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