n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Taalverskuiwing en Afrikaans - 'n ontleding van sensusdata

Volume 43, Issue 3_4
  • ISSN : 0041-4751


Although it is often contended that Afrikaans is losing ground for a variety of socio-economic and political reason, there are few attempts at measuring such language shifts. This article uses census data to do so.
The usefulness of 1996 census data is somewhat curtailed because the home language of household members was usually presumed to be the same as that of the household head. Contrary to expectations, younger persons are more likely to be in households where Afrikaans is the language of the household head, due to higher fertility amongst both white and coloured Afrikaans speakers (even after considering their lower urbanisation and education). A comparison of 1970 and 1996 census data shows that, for an age cohort born in a particular year, there was a significant shift away from Afrikaans: for whites 1.7 percentage points, and for coloureds a massive 7.4 percentage points.
Afrikaans-speakers are less educated than their counterparts, and more educated people are less likely to choose Afrikaans as home language. Language shifts amongst coloureds in the Cape metropolitan area appear to be influenced by settlement in areas where English is the economically dominant language.
Thus language shifts away from Afrikaans are strongly influenced by economic and educational change, particularly in the coloured community. Although higher fertility among Afrikaans speakers dampens this effect, the long-term trend is of a sharp shift towards English as home language. The impact of recent political changes on higher functions of Afrikaans strengthens this conclusion.

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