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About Afrikaans Language

Afrikaans is a Germanic language originating from the Dutch spoken by settlers in Africa in the seventeenth century and thus is classified as Low Franconian West Germanic. Aside from English, Afrikaans deviates the farthest from the grammars of the other Germanic languages. It is mainly spoken in South Africa and Namibia, with smaller populations of speakers living in Australia, Botswana, Canada, Lesotho, Malawi, New Zealand, Swaziland, the United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Due to emigration and migrant labour, there are possibly over 100,000 Afrikaans speakers in the United Kingdom,[citation needed] It is the primary language used by two ethnic groups in South Africa: the Afrikaans people (Afrikaners) and the Coloureds (in Afrikaans: kleurlinge or bruinmense–including Basters, Cape Malays and Griqua).

Afrikaans is the majority language of the western third of South Africa (Northern and Western Cape, in which it is spoken at home by 68% and 55% of the population, respectively. It is also the most common first language in the adjacent southern third of Namibia (Hardap and Karas, where it is the first language of 44% and 40% of the population, respectively).

Orthography

There are many parallels to the Dutch orthography conventions and those used for Afrikaans. There are 26 letters.

In Afrikaans, many consonants are dropped from the earlier Dutch spelling. For example, slechts ('only') in Dutch becomes slegs in Afrikaans. Part of this is because the spelling of Afrikaans words is considerably more phonemic than that of Dutch. For example, Afrikaans and some Dutch dialects make no distinction between /s/ and /z/, having merged the latter into the former; while the word for "south" is written ‹zuid› in Dutch, it is spelled ‹suid› in Afrikaans to represent this merger. Similarly, the Dutch digraph‹ij› is written as ‹y›, except where it replaces the Dutch suffix –lijk, as in waarschijnlijk > waarskynlik.

Another difference is the indefinite article, 'n in Afrikaans and een in Dutch. 'A book' is 'n boek in Afrikaans, whereas it is either een boek or 'n boek in Dutch. This 'n is usually pronounced as just a weak vowel, [ə].

The diminutive suffix in Afrikaans is ‹-jie›, whereas in Dutch it is ‹-je›, hence "a little bit" is bietjie in Afrikaans and beetje in Dutch.

The letters ‹c›, ‹q›, ‹x›, and ‹z› occur almost exclusively in borrowings from French, English, Greek, and Latin. This is usually because words that had ‹c› and ‹ch› in the original Dutch are spelled with ‹k› and ‹g›, respectively, in Afrikaans. Similarly original ‹qu› and ‹x› are spelt ‹kw› and ‹ks› respectively. For example ‹ekwatoriaal› instead of ‹equatoriaal›, and ‹ekskuus› instead of ‹excuus›.

The vowels with diacritics in non-loanword Afrikaans are: ‹á, é, è, ê, ë, í, î, ï, ó, ô, ú, û, ý›. Diacritics are ignored when alphabetizing, though they are still important, even when typing the diacritic forms may be difficult.

History

Afrikaans developed among the Dutch-speaking Protestant settlers, and the indentured or slave workforce of the Cape area in southwestern South Africa that was established by the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie — VOC) between 1652 and 1705. A relative majority of these first settlers were from the United Provinces (now Netherlands), though there were also many from Germany, a considerable number from France, and some from Norway, Portugal, Scotland, and various other countries. The indentured workers and slaves were Asians, Malays, and Malagasys in addition to the indigenous Khoi and Bushmen.

Afrikaans also remains akin to other West-Germanic languages (except English) in that it remains a V2 language which features verb-final structures in subordinate clauses, just like Dutch and German.

Dialects

Following early dialectical studies of Afrikaans, it was theorised that three main historical dialects probably existed before the Great Trek in the 1830s. These dialects are defined as the Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape dialects. Remnants of these dialects still remain in present-day Afrikaans although the standardising effect of Standard Afrikaans has contributed to a great levelling of differences in modern times.

There is also a prison cant known as soebela, or sombela which is based on Afrikaans yet heavily influenced by Zulu. This language is used as a secret language in prison and is taught to initiates.

Expatriate geolect

The geolect of Afrikaans spoken outside South Africa in predominantly English-speaking countries have been referred to as "soutmielie".

Standardisation

The linguist Paul Roberge suggests that the earliest 'truly Afrikaans' texts are doggerel verse from 1795 and a dialogue transcribed by a Dutch traveller in 1825. Printed material among the Afrikaners at first used only standard European Dutch. By the mid-19th century, more and more were appearing in Afrikaans, which was very much still regarded as a set of regional dialects.

In 1861, L.H. Meurant published his Zamenspraak tusschen Klaas Waarzegger en Jan Twyfelaar ("Conversation between Claus Truthsayer and John Doubter"), which is considered by some to be the first authoritative Afrikaans text. Abu Bakr Effendi also compiled his Arabic Afrikaans Islamic instruction book between 1862 and 1869, although this was only published and printed in 1877. The first Afrikaans grammars and dictionaries were published in 1875 by the Genootskap vir Regte Afrikaners ('Society for Real Afrikaners') in Cape Town.

The First and Second Boer Wars further strengthened the position of Afrikaans. The official languages of the Union of South Africa were English and Dutch until Afrikaans was subsumed under Dutch on 5 May 1925.

The main Afrikaans dictionary is the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT) (Dictionary of the Afrikaans Language), which is as yet incomplete due to the scale of the project, but the one-volume dictionary in household use is the Verklarende Handwoordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (HAT). The official orthography of Afrikaans is the Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls, compiled by Die Taalkommissie.

The Afrikaans Bible

A major landmark in the development of Afrikaans was the full translation of the Bible into the language. Prior to this most Cape Dutch-Afrikaans speakers had to rely on the Dutch Statenbijbel. The aforementioned Statenvertaling had its origins with the Synod of Dordrecht and was thus in an archaic form of Dutch. This rendered understanding difficult at best to Dutch and Cape Dutch speakers, moreover increasingly unintelligible to Afrikaans speakers.

C. P. Hoogehout, Arnoldus Pannevis, and Stephanus Jacobus du Toit were the first Afrikaans Bible translators. Important landmarks in the translation of the Scriptures were in 1878 with C. P. Hoogehout's translation of the Evangelie volgens Markus (Gospel of Mark), however this translation was never published. The manuscript is to be found in the South African National Library, Cape Town.

The first official Bible translation of the entire Bible into Afrikaans was in 1933 by J. D. du Toit, E. E. van Rooyen, J. D. Kestell, H. C. M. Fourie, and BB Keet. This monumental work established Afrikaans as a suiwer and oordentlike taal, i.e. a "pure" and "suitable language" for religious purposes, especially amongst the deeply Calvinist Afrikaans religious community that had hitherto been somewhat sceptical of a Bible translation out of the original Dutch language to which they were accustomed.

In 1983 there was a fresh translation in order to mark the 50th anniversary of the original 1933 translation and provide much needed revision. The final editing of this edition was done by E. P. Groenewald, A. H. van Zyl, P. A. Verhoef, J. L. Helberg, and W. Kempen.

Sociolinguistics

Afrikaans is the first language of over 80% of Coloured South Africans (3.1 million people) and approximately 60% of White South Africans (2.5 million). Around 200,000 black South Africans speak it as their first language.[15] Large numbers of Bantu-speaking and English-speaking South Africans also speak it as their second language.

Some state that the term Afrikaanses should be used as a term for all people who speak Afrikaans, without respect to ethnic origin, instead of "Afrikaners", which refers to an ethnic group, or "Afrikaanssprekendes" (lit. people that speak Afrikaans). Linguistic identity has not yet established that one term be favoured above another and all three are used in common parlance.

It is also widely spoken in Namibia, where it has had constitutional recognition as a national, but not official, language since independence in 1990. Prior to independence, Afrikaans had equal status with German as an official language. There is a much smaller number of Afrikaans speakers among Zimbabwe's white minority, as most have left the country since 1980. Afrikaans was also a medium of instruction for schools in Bophuthatswana Bantustan.

Many South Africans living and working in Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Kuwait, and the United Kingdom are also Afrikaans-speaking. There are Afrikaans websites, among them, news sites such as http://www.nuus24.com, and radio broadcasts over the web, such as those from Radio Sonder Grense and Radio Pretoria. New Zealand has an Afrikaans club based in Auckland which organises Afrikaans dances and meetings ... http://www.afrikaans.org.nz/.

Afrikaans has been influential in the development of South African English. Many Afrikaans loanwords have found their way into South African English, such as 'bakkie' ("pickup truck"), 'braai' ("barbecue"), 'tekkies' ("sneakers"). A few words in standard English are derived from Afrikaans, such as 'aardvark' (lit. "earth pig"), 'trek' ("pioneering journey", in Afrikaans lit. "pull" but used also for "migrate"), "spoor" ("animal track"), "veld" ("Southern African grassland" in Afrikaans lit. "field"), "commando" from Afrikaans "kommando" meaning small fighting unit, "boomslang" ("tree snake") and apartheid ("segregation"; more accurately "apartness" or "the state or condition of being apart").

In 1976, high school students in Soweto began a rebellion in response to the government's decision that Afrikaans be used as the language of instruction for half the subjects taught in non-White schools (with English continuing for the other half). Although English is the mother tongue of only 8.2% of the population, it is the language most widely understood, and the second language of a majority of South Africans. Afrikaans is more widely spoken than English in the Northern and Western Cape provinces, several hundred kilometers from Soweto. The Black community's opposition to Afrikaans and preference for continuing English instruction was underscored when the government rescinded the policy one month after the uprising: 96% of Black schools chose English (over Afrikaans or native languages) as the language of instruction.

Under South Africa's Constitution of 1996, Afrikaans remains an official language, and has equal status to English and nine other languages. The new policy means that the use of Afrikaans is now, in effect, often reduced in favour of English, or to accommodate the other official languages. In 1996, for example, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reduced the amount of television airtime in Afrikaans, while South African Airways dropped its Afrikaans name Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens from its livery. Similarly, South Africa's diplomatic missions overseas now only display the name of the country in English and their host country's language, and not in Afrikaans.

In spite of these moves, the language has remained strong, and Afrikaans newspapers and magazines continue to have large circulation figures. Indeed, the Afrikaans-language general-interest family magazine Huisgenoot has the largest readership of any magazine in the country.[citation needed] In addition, a pay-TV channel in Afrikaans called KykNet was launched in 1999, and an Afrikaans music channel, MK, in 2005. A large number of Afrikaans books are still published every year, mainly by the publishers Human & Rousseau, Tafelberg Uitgewers, Struik, and Protea Boekhuis.

Afrikaans has two monuments erected in its honour. The first was erected in Burgersdorp, South Africa, in 1893, and the second, better-known Afrikaans Language Monument (Afrikaanse Taalmonument) was built in Paarl, South Africa, in 1975.

When the British design magazine Wallpaper described Afrikaans as "one of the world's ugliest languages" in its September 2005 article about the Monument, South African billionaire Johann Rupert (chairman of the Richemont group), responded by withdrawing advertising for brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and Alfred Dunhill from the magazine. The author of the article, Bronwyn Davies, was an English-speaking South African.

Modern Dutch and Afrikaans share 85-plus per cent of their vocabulary. Afrikaans speakers are able to learn Dutch within a comparatively short time. Native Dutch speakers pick up written Afrikaans even more quickly, due to its simplified grammar, whereas understanding spoken Afrikaans might need more effort. Afrikaans speakers can learn Dutch pronunciation with little training. This has enabled Dutch and Belgian companies to outsource their call centre operations to South Africa.

 

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