n Language Matters : Studies in the Languages of Southern Africa - Educated mother-tongue South African English : a corpus approach




South Africa is anecdotally known for its complex system of speech varieties correlating with variables such as ethnicity, first language, class and education. These intuitions (e.g. Lass 1990) require further investigation, especially in the context of a changing South Africa where language variety plays a key role in identifying social, economic and ethnic group membership. Thus, in this research, the extent to which these variables play a role in variety is explored using a corpus approach (the nature of class and race in the corpus is discussed more fully later in the article). The corpus project, focusing primarily on accent, has been undertaken by members of the Department of English Language and Linguistics at Rhodes University in South Africa, collaborating with staff from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. A corpus (the first of its kind) is being compiled, comprising the speech of educated, white, mother-tongue speakers of South African English (as distinct from Afrikaans English, Indian English, and the second language (L2) varieties of English used by speakers of indigenous African languages), and data collection is well under way. This short article aims to describe the aims of the project, and the methodological approach which underpins it, as well as to highlight some of the more problematic aspects of the research.


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