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South Africa is, for a number of reasons, one of the most fascinating places to look at.

First of all, it has a


unique and complex history of apartheid and post-apartheid, in which sociolinguistic issues play a
central role. During the years of apartheid (1948–1994), English and Afrikaans were the only two
languages with an officially recognized nation-wide status, despite the wide variety of other languages
that were (and are) learnt and spoken. Derived from this context, the myth of South Africa as a bilingual
English-Afrikaans country persisted for many years. Until 1994, language policy was decided by the
apartheid regime and imposed on all inhabitants of South Africa and on all of their languages. The
Constitutional Assembly of the post-apartheid Republic of South Africa adopted a new Constitution in
1996 which, at least in writing, is probably more generous to multilingualism than any other Constitution
in the world. No less than eleven official languages have formally been adopted. The obvious challenge
is how to move away from an apartheid language ideology to a post-apartheid one, not only in its
rhetoric, but also in actual practice. Another reason for focusing on South Africa derives from the
concept of language as a core value of culture (cf. Smolicz, 1980; 1992). According to Smolicz and other
researchers, the own or ancestral language of socioculturally dominated groups in a multicultural
society may or may not be a core value of culture for such groups. In South Africa, where, from a
demographic perspective, socioculturally dominant groups have been minority rather than majority
groups, a most interesting continuum of attitudes towards this issue emerges. Native speakers of English
adhere to the concept of language as a core value of culture more commonly than any other group in
South Africa, even to such a degree that they often have a monolingual habitus. Most commonly, native
speakers of Afrikaans consider Afrikaans to be a major value or even the core value of their culture. In
many Afrikaans speaking homes, however, English is spoken as well. One of the consequences of the
apartheid regime has been that indigenous African languages, spoken by the majority of the people in
South Africa, have been stigmatized to such a degree that they often suffer from a diminished self-
esteem by their speakers. As a result, African languages are conceived as core values of culture by their
native speakers to a much lower degree. At the extreme of the continuum, Indian languages are rarely
conceived as core values of culture by Indian South Africans, at least in terms of communicative use.
Most Indian South Africans speak English at home. However, for many of them, Indian languages hold
symbolic value

South Africa provides a complex and intriguing picture of multilingualism, due to its broad spectrum of
both indigenous and non-indigenous languages and to its politically burdened history of apartheid.
During the period of apartheid (1948–1994), English and Afrikaans were the only two languages with an
officially recognized nation-wide status, despite the wide variety of other languages learnt and spoken in
South Africa. Apart from Afrikaans, English and other languages of European origin, two major groups of
languages should be mentioned here, i.e., • Bantu languages, in particular (isi)Zulu, (isi)Xhosa, (si)Swati,
(isi)Ndebele, (se)Sotho, (se)Tswana, (xi)Tsonga (tshi)Venda and Sepedi; • Indian languages, in particular
Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Urdu and Telegu. While Bantu languages have their roots in Southern Africa,
European and Indian languages originate from abroad, coming into South Africa since the 17th and 19th
centuries respectively. For a historical and sociolinguistic discussion of the spectrum of languages in
South Africa, we refer to Mesthrie (1995a) and Extra and Maartens (1998). On 8 May 1996, the
Constitutional Assembly of the post-apartheid Republic of South Africa adopted a new Constitution,
which provides in Clause 6 for no less than eleven official languages in the context of an ambitious
language policy: 1 The official languages of the Republic are Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati,
Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.

Athol Fugard is, as he has often called himself, a “bastardised Afrikaner” 1– his
father is from Irish descent, while his mother was an Afrikaner (Elizabeth
Magdalena Potgieter). According to Vandenbrouck “Fugard sometimes refers to
his family as bywoners, literally ‘squatters’ or ‘share-croppers’, a term applied to
generically to all poor whites … Fugard claims, however, there was no English-
Afrikaner conflict in his home, though he does call himself ‘a bastardised
Afrikaner, a product of ‘cultural miscegenation’ … His father had a poor command
of Afrikaans and usually conversed with his wife in English, but Fugard
remembers, ‘We spoke both languages with indiscriminate proficiency’”
(1986:15).

Fugard was born in Middelburg (Northern Cape), grew up in the Eastern Cape
region of South Africa (Port Elizabeth) and can understand and speak Afrikaans
fluently, although he does not have the confidence to write in Afrikaans.
According to Vandenbroucke he “would not attempt to write creatively in
Afrikaans”, but is “very conscious of how certain qualities, certain textures,
certain moods – in terms of the South African scene – can with total precision be
described only by an Afrikaans turn of the word” (1986:15). Some of his earlier
plays were situated in Port Elizabeth and vicinity (the so-called PE plays: Master
Harold and the boys….), while his later plays are now almost exclusively placed in
the small town of Nieu-Betesda in the Northern Cape. Fugard has a house in this
town and often stays there for a few months a year when in South Africa. Many of
his characters in these plays are based on real life people in this town and area
(mostly Coloured, Afrikaans-speaking characters, such as Booitjie en Oubaas in …;
Valley Song, …),

In many interviews stated a positive attitude towards Afrikaans –especially since


1994. Often said that certain plays (notably Boesman & lena) should have been
written in Afrikaans). Also now the translations of his plays in Afrikaans.

1
According to Gray: “Fugard delights in classifying himself as a cultural bastard, English-Afrikaner, black-white”,
1986:23-24.
…….. A complicating factor when studying dramatic language in Fugard’s work is
the interplay of mainly Afrikaans (but sometimes also other indigenous South
African languages) found in so many of his English plays. One finds this form of
interplay from his earliest plays (Blood knot, 1961) up to his most recent plays
(Exits and Entrances (Gray, 19822, in and even studied (in the early MA
dissertation of Coleen Angove, 1986 ). A remark often made in this regard is that
although his characters speak English and the play is written in English, the
reader/spectator of the play often gets the impression that this character is really
speaking a certain type of Afrikaans (especially noticeable in his Afrikaner and so-
called Coloured characters). In their speech these characters often mix their
English with a variety of Afrikaans words/phrases/short sentences/slang – varying
between the use of a few words (Playland, 1992) to plays where every page of the
written text reflects this practice (Boesman and Lena is probably the best example
here with approximately … Afrikaans words found in the play). 3

2
“The lengthy glossaries of South African words at the ends of his published collections do not, of course, pertain
on stage: for the actors in performance no passages become italicized as one or another language barrier is
crossed. The result of this use of English across the board, imbedded with acquisitions from its neighbouring,
intermingling languages, is that Fugard can give whole plays over to no-go non-communication situations and
make communication occur; the marriage of Piet and Gladys in Aloes is a key example” (Grey, 1982:25 -26).
3
Fugard uses Afrikaans (from a few words/phrases – to quite a lot in almost all plays: Blood knot (1961: 58, 59, 79,
102, 119, 120: approximately 20 words , for example p. 79 “hotnot” and “swartgat”; p.119 “voetsek”); Hello and
goodbye (1965: 136, 158, 166, 169, 176: 6 words, for example p.158 “hoer”); Boesman and Lena (1969): The play
with the most words, phrases, short sentences and even a song in Afrikaans of all his plays, namely words (more
than 200 Afrikaans words, for example, p.194: “moer, vrot, skof, voetsek, eina”, p.196: “pondok, hotnot, moer,
kaalgat, brak, hond”; p. 203: “skeef, dop, bedonnerd”; p. 216: ”hond, lawaai, leeggesuip, loop, pondok, Outa”;
p.238 “ sies (x 7); moer, naar, kaffer, Outa, woel”); phrases (for example, p. 194: “ou ding”; p.195: “ou Hotnot
meid”; p. 211:”môre baas”; p. 222 ”ou drol”; p. 239: “môre is nog ‘n dag”); sentences (for example, p.194: “vat jou
goed en trek”; p. 196: “Arme ou Lena se maer ou bene”; p.200: “Die geraas van ‘n vervloekte lewe”; p. 208: “vrot
ou huisie vir die vrot mens”; p. 213: “Gat op die grond en trane vir ‘n bottel”; p. 223 “wag wêreld, kom
brandewyn”; p.227: “Daar kom ‘n ding die kant”; p.230 “Sa! Sa vir die kaffer!”,Song, for example, p. 234 “Ou
blikkie kondens melk/Maak die lewe soet/ Boesman is ‘n Boesman/ Maar hy dra ‘n hotnot hoed”; People are living
there (1969); only one Afrikaans word (p.111” poep”); Master Harold and the boys (1982): Afrikaans
“aanspreekvorme”, for example “Boet” and an Afrikaans exclamation (“aikona”, p. ) used, as well as one sentence
in Afrikaans by Oom Dawie (Afrikaner): “Dis beter. Nou kan ons lekker gesels”, p.174; Playland (1992): About 40
Afrikaans words in this short play, for example: p.9 “verneuk”, p.11 “bakgat”, p. 12” bosbefok”, p. 31 “skelm”, p. 54
“handlanger”; A lesson from aloes (1981): Although dedicated to his Afrikaner mother, Elizabeth Magdalena
Potgieter) and using an Afrikaner character (Piet Bezuidenhout) in the play, one finds only one Afrikaans word (p.
60: “maar”) and one Afrikaans sentence (p.64: “Ons geslag is verkeerd” – repeated twice) in this play; The road to
Mecca (1985) …. Valley song (1995…Sorrows and rejoicings (2002 … Exits and entrances (2005/6)
Approximately 47 words (p. 3 “Hou jou fockon bek! Luis gat!, p. 4: “half-aan-die slap domkoppe”,p. 11
“dominee”, p. 12 “ snot en trane”, p. 23 “vervloekte, verkrampte dominees”).

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