The Conundrums of Language Policy and Politics in South Africa and Zimbabwe

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Ndhlovu, Finex (2008) The Conundrums of Language Policy and Politics in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Australian Journal of Linguistics, 28 (1). pp. 59-80. ISSN 0726-8602


This article reflects on and reinterprets South Africa’s documented human rights-inspired language policy and Zimbabwe’s assimilation�tolerance approach to language use. The overall intention is to expose and discuss the intolerant, undemocratic and homogenizing ideologies underpinning language policy in the two neighbouring southern African countries. The article spotlights the ceremonial ‘official language’ status of South Africa’s nine African languages and the ‘national language’ status of the Ndebele language in Zimbabwe. It is argued that contrary to rosy policy enunciations, actual patterns of language use and discursive practices of ruling political elites confer higher functional status to English and Afrikaans in South Africa and English and Shona in Zimbabwe. Therefore, as well as being firmly located and resident in political statements of the ruling elites, language policy ideologies are also hidden in the fissures and faultlines of official documents. The article concludes that the documented language policies of South Africa and Zimbabwe epitomize lofty ideals that are not consonant with actual patterns of language use mediated and legitimized by hegemonic discourses of ruling politicians.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1080/07268600701877499
Official URL
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > FOR Classification > 2004 Linguistics
Historical > SEO Classification > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
Keywords ResPubID14911, language policy, language politics, political discourse, African languages, South Africa, Zimbabwe
Citations in Scopus 25 - View on Scopus
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