n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - N.P. van Wyk Louw se opvattings oor taalbewegings en die behoud van Afrikaans

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



In several essays and talks, the Afrikaans poet N. P. van Wyk Louw spoke about small nations and languages, language movements, language struggles and nationalism, and the survival of Afrikaans. The factors contributing to the success of a language movement are discussed in the current article, as based on Louw's view of language movements and his views on nationalism. According to Louw, nationalism does not involve the glorification of the nation and language; self-glorification is a feature of chauvinism, the black angel of nationalism and actually its archenemy. In fact, a man "does not love his nation because it is worthy and the best nation on earth; he loves it for its misery." Louw denied that nationalism is a form of limitation, narrowness, and selfishness. He argued his denial by referring to national rights. An example of a national right is the right to receive your intellectual development, in short your education, in a language that you understand. "When you see the value of national rights not only as rights your own group deserve, but as universal human rights, then you're already out of the limitations of your own group, and you will not only claim these rights for your own group". He distinguishes between the imperialist and aggressive nationalism of the great nations on the one hand, and the nationalism of the people who rebel against this type of nationalism on the other. The two kinds of nationalism lead to two kinds of language movements. Louw described the defensive language movements of the communities that react against imperialist nationalisms. A language movement can only start when historically conscious intellectuals are concernedabout a "crisis of despair" in a nation or language community, and plan to retain the language, to uplift (or empower) the community and thus ensure the survival of the people or language community. Such a crisis occurs when a large number of community members question whether it is worthwhile to retain the language and continue as a language community. The first agent used by communities in language movements are organizations and institutions established by the community. A language movement has a great chance of success if it has political support and is therefore not politically so powerless that it cannot influence government decisions. A language movement cannot succeed without political means. The loss of political support in a multilingual country can seriously harm a minority language. A language movement's chances of success in a multilingual country are best when the movement can succeed in connecting the struggle for the promotion of the language with the empowerment of a disadvantaged community.

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