Bemused / Betrayed / Brazen: An overview of aspects of the current debate about Afrikaans

J.W. Alant


The current debate about Afrikaans among Afrikaners is characterized by dismissive and engaged attitudes. Those who are dismissive believe that the debate is out of tune with the demands of time and should not be taking place. Those who are engaged believe it is crucial for identity and for giving substance to the spirit of the Constitution. In this article, these
perspectives are juxtaposed with those raised during debates about the 'future of Afrikaans' in the I 980s and I 990s. Some 'dismissive' perspectives can be traced back to the Juture' debate: Afrikaans should exist 'naturally'; Afrikaans should be Jreed' from Afrikaner nationalism and be understood as the language of a much larger group of speakers. The 'engaged' debate has, however, brought to the fore significant developments that were largely unforeseen: the generation conflict within Afrikaner ranks (the 'Boetman' debate), and the reappraisal
of Afrikaner nationalism (by those who had supported the political changes of the 1990s) as a means of asserting Afrikaans language rights, thereby giving impetus to a new language struggle (taalstryd). While this 'struggle' is ostensibly for multilingualism rather than for Afrikaans per se, many regard it as politically insensitive. Greater participation in the debate by black Afrikaans speakers could change this perception. Meanwhile the very existence of a debate about Afrikaans is an indication of a certain distinctiveness of linguistic experience - and language attitude - on the part of many Afrikaans speakers, which future
language policy should be flexible enough to recognize.

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