n Language Matters : Studies in the Languages of Southern Africa - Subordinate immigrant languages and language endangerment : two community studies from KwaZulu-Natal

Volume 37, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-5986



This article describes the language dilemmas of forced or semi-forced migrants made to labour in a new territory as they try to integrate into a new territory and gain a stronger economic foothold. Insofar as they are not in control of their socio-political and physical environment, their dilemmas are different from those of indigenous people and of superordinate (colonising) migrant communities. The main focus falls on two sets of such subordinate migrants in KwaZulu-Natal: communities originating from India (i.e., Tamil, Telugu, Bhojpuri-Hindi and Urdu) and from Mozambique (i.e., Makhuwa and Yao). These communities are classified as 'subordinate' insofar as they did not arrive voluntarily in KwaZulu-Natal, but out of the special circumstances arising from indenture and (freedom from) slavery, respectively. These languages are all spoken today, over a century and a quarter after the initial migrations. However, all of them face endangerment (on a local scale) as intergenerational transmission has either ceased or become difficult to achieve with the youngest children. In this process the 'internal' realignments that migrants face and the external realignments from the dominant economy are particularly relevant. There is an increasing 'diffuseness' of the Indian community compared to the still relatively 'focused' interactions of the 'Zanzibari' community in Durban.

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