Flourishing functional multilingualism: evidence from language repertoires in the Vaal Triangle region
Susan Coetzee-Van Rooy
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Currently, there is a debate about the potential language shift among speakers of African languages towards English. Scholars hold conflicting views about this issue and the debates are complicated because of the widespread multilingualism in the South African society. The main aim of this article is to revisit current claims of language shift among speakers of African languages by analyzing relevant data from a larger scale survey of the language repertoires of an identified population. The research method involved the adaptation of language history or experience questionnaires designed by bilingualism researchers to describe the language repertoires of a large population of multilingual students. The main findings of the study are: (a) multilingualism is flourishing among the participants; (b) the multilingual repertoires of the participants are expanding because of the addition of African languages to the repertoires; and (c) the position of English is confined to specific functions. A pattern of flourishing functional multilingualism emerges. The value of adding larger scale quantitative studies to complement smaller, qualitative studies in discussions of language shift and maintenance is confirmed by this study.
- NWU Official