n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Standaardafrikaans, standaardspelling en die AWS

Volume 56 Number 2-1
  • ISSN : 0041-4751



The standardisation of Afrikaans - which term includes all the varieties and lects used at the Cape during the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as modern varieties - is a complex and often contentious matter. The present-day criticism levelled at Standard Afrikaans is not discussed in this article. Instead, it is accepted that, in the course of more or less a century, a standard variety has been developed out of the Afrikaans-Dutch vernaculars spoken in this southern part of Africa and that this standardisation has been successful. No attempt is made to prove this statement, except to say that it is accepted as a fact because Standard Afrikaans has been, for the greater part of a century, able to hold its own against English in the higher functions of a language, such as government, the administration of justice, (higher) education, science, literature, and the arts and culture. Likewise, this article accepts that the standard variety of a language can hardly function successfully without an effective orthography and, therefore, that the standardisation of the Standard Afrikaans orthography contributed significantly to the standardisation of Afrikaans. The Suidafrikaanse Akademie vir Taal, Lettere en Kuns1 (an Afrikaans academy for language,literature and arts), which was founded in 1909, became a major driving force in the standardisation process. Initially, there was much disagreement about whether Dutch or Afrikaans should be promoted and, if the latter, whether a highly phoneticised spelling system or one closer to the Dutch tradition should be adopted. At the time, the spelling of written Afrikaans varied greatly. The Akademie initially established two commissions, a spelling commission and a "vocabulary" commission, to regulate the matter. These two commissions later merged into the current Taalkommissie ("language commission"). As a result of their work, the first formalised spelling rules were compiled and, in September1915, adopted at an AGM of the Akademie. These, along with a word list that contained words deemed to belong to the received standard (or "cultured" variety) of the emerging standard language or to pose spelling difficulties, were published in 1917 as the first edition of the Afrikaanse woordelys en spelreëls (AWS) (that is, "Afrikaans word list and spelling rules"), which, over the decades, has become the authoritative source on Standard Afrikaans spelling issues. Its authority was accepted by the public in general, education authorities, and publishers and the press, and they, in turn, gave invaluable feedback to the committees compiling the AWS. To date, ten editions have been published.

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