Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An Irate Rich responds

Now, dear readers, you all remember my previous post on South African English. The debate continues. This is Rich's reply. You make of it what you will.

Rich's comments are in red.  

What a total misrepresentation of what I said. I am believing you should be a reporter, that because you twist the facts and put it in print (-:
How can I now defend and correct?
You guys are coming around to my house tonight and I should be at the shops to prepare, but I thought this response is very important, so if I am not ready tonight, you know why (-:
Please don't pick on my spelling. The simple truth is I CANNOT SPELL (-:
See my comments below

One of our dear friends here in SA refuses to believe that there is such a thing as South African English. He maintains that he speaks 'the Queen's English' (feel the Queen cringe), She should be so lucky, the old bag and that I speak wrong, i.e. American English. This post is for him.

I was not referring to your English but to the Yanks. Your English is very delicious (-:

According to Peter Trudgill and Jean Hannah (International English, 4th Edition, Arnold Publishers, 2002, p. 4 & 115) South African English (SAfEng) is a recognized, as well as a major variety of English, a 'dialect' differing in both grammar and vocabulary, Dialect perhaps, but grammatically, even though I may often falter, no. Just because I may at times be grammatically incorrect does not make it correct! rather than an 'accent' only differing in pronunciation (the Queen's English incidentally only refers to pronunciation). The words only found in SAfEng, such as stoep (a porch or a veranda) are not 'wrong' but simply different. The word robot in SAfEng signifies a traffic light, and that is just fine. The word "stoep" is NOT English, not SAfEng or any other form of English. It is an Afrikaans word and could then perhaps be regarded as slang if used in a sentence. A porch is a porch.

Perhaps the most famous linguist ever, Ferdinand de Saussure, once said "Time changes all things: there is no reason why language should escape this universal law" (Saussure in Jean Aitchison, Language Change - Progress or Decay? Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 4). Languages change and evolve, they are never stationary. Yes, rules apply to facilitate understanding, but change still constantly occurs, and has always done so. The differences between the specific variants, in our case SAfEng, stem from changes to the variant since settlement in the particular territory, but also from changes in the original variant, in our case British English (EngEng). (Trudgill and Hannah, 2002, p. 6-8) Furthermore contact with other languages can influence a variant. In South Africa English came into and still remains in contact with several different Bantu languages such as Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho and Tswana, as well as the Boer language Afrikaans. Even Hindi and Tamil might have had a hand in the change game. (Ibid, p. 27-28) Again these influences incorporated, are incorporated into our language as "slang" in order to communicate more effectively or to emphasise certain things into a local perspective, but do not influence what is correct. These words would not be used in formal correspondence or in business communications. There the dear Queen and our formal educational influence would apply.

As previously mentioned the differences between SAfEng and EngEng reach beyond differences in pronunciation onto differences in grammar and vocabulary. Grammatical differences between SAfEng and EngEng appear to be fewer than between Australian- and New Zealand English and EngEng (Ibid, p. 29), which would explain why our friend is so adamant that he speaks like the Queen of England (yes, pun intended). However, there are recognized (recogniSed not recogniZed) differences, such as the replacement of adjective + of + participle structure with an adjective + infinitive structure, as in instead of saying 'He is capable of doing many things at once', saying 'He is capable to do many things at once' (Ibid, p. 30). What a total misrepresentation of the truth!! English speaking SA's do NOT speak like this. The people whose first language is Afrikaans speak like this. The reason for this: That is the grammatical way of structuring your sentence in Afrikaans and they attempt making a direct word for word translation. Unfortunately the English SA's sometimes stoop very low and even make fun of them. For this I am embarrassed. From personal experience, I can say that this is not a grammatical glitch only in some speech, but does in fact occur quite often, and also in educated speech. NONSENSE - Only with Afrikaans speaking South African's speaking English. Granted there are a lot of them (-:

SAfEng vocabulary has additions from several other languages spoken within South Africa. From Zulu Trudgill and Hannah (p. 30) list the words impi  and indaba meaning 'African warrior band' and 'conference' respectively not additions to our language, these are not English. I have to admit though that this is my first introduction to both words. I have heard ubuntu, meaning hospitality many times, but its origins are not found in any one specific language, but in the Bantu languages in general. Afrikaans is a language that has, in my opinion, had a very strong influence on SAfEng and continues to do so, as many of the South Africans who speak English as their second language speak Afrikaans as their mother tongue (or maybe it is just the crowd I hang out with. Again I think I need some black friends). Of adopted Afrikaans words Trudgill and Hannah (p. 30) mention dorp meaning 'village', kraal meaning 'African village', sjambok meaning 'whip', and veld meaning 'flat, open country'. These words are all familiar to me, only after half a year in the country. Still, don't think that I am a weirdo or something, sjambok figures very strongly in all of the apartheid-related literature I have been consuming. According to Trudgill and Hannah (p.30) the differences found within the formal English vocabulary are not many, but there are differences. They mention such words as bioscope for cinema, location for (Black) ghetto, reference book for identity document, and of course robot for a traffic light. 

None of the above mentioned words are English. We live in a country with 11 different official languages, so you cannot assume every word you hear is a variant of SA English. In fact none of the above words are English. Please also refer to some of my comments above.

Trudgill and Hannah never venture as far as looking at the potential of Black South African English as a specific variant, even though they do separate American Black Vernacular English as a vernacular in its own right (Ibid, p. 112). Rodrik Wade of University of Natal department of linguistics' article on this question makes a compelling argument and very interesting reading though, especially, if you are as much of a language nerd as I seem to be. Wade argues that Black South African English should be considered a distinctive 'new' English, and as such could have an impact on the current South African English.  Wade is a moron (-:

See Richard, change is inevitable. Even Queen Elisabeth does not speak the same way Queen Victoria did.

As an example of grammatically incorrect "American" English. If such a thing even exists, it's just that they cannot speak correct English?

I did so good ??????
I did so well !!!!!

Interesting stuff.

1 comment:

ignominia said...

I know this is an old post but I got here only now...
I have done business with South Africans in the late 70's (hence before Mandela was freed and Apartheid crumbled) who tried to convince me that there was no racism in South Africa and that black people were truly happy and well taken care for by the white estabilishment.
May it be that colonial pride is so ingraned in the mind of these SAfEnglish people that stubbornly they can't observe how the world around them (language included)has changed?