Dimensions of sociolinguistic distinction in postcolonial ethnic diversity: Folk perceptions of language across Namibia's rural/urban divide

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5 Citations (Scopus)


This study addresses itself with the effects of urbanization on ethnolinguistic boundaries in Subsaharan African postcolonial environments using as a case study Namibia, an ethnically diverse country where indigenous languages co-exist with English and Afrikaans, the country's two lingua francas. The data that the study uses consist in spatialized perceptions of sociolinguistic distinctions elicited via Perceptual Dialectology methodologies, implemented for the first time in a multilingual environment. The study shows that the respondents perceive a sociolinguistic urban/rural divide. Urban areas are depicted as ethnically diverse environments where indigenous languages fade out in favour of lingua francas through language-mixing and language loss. Additionally, there is a perception that cities are home to ethnically unspecified standard and non-standard varieties of Afrikaans and English, set against rural Afrikaans and English varieties marked by interferences from indigenous languages. Against the background of both social and linguistic characterizations, the study concludes that urban environments provide scope for more or less prestigious ethnically neutral identities superseding traditional ethnolinguistic ones while there are indications that ethnic authenticity, linked to rural areas and indexed by ‘unmixed varieties’, remains strongly valued.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-68
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Ethnicity
  • Language contact
  • Namibia
  • Perceptual Dialectology
  • Sociolinguistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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