Shifting prestige norms in post-colonial contexts: interpreting phonetic trends in Namibia’s lingua francas

Gerald Stell

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This study sheds light on the socio-economic factors determining the (re)location of sociolinguistic prestige in postcolonial environments. It uses the case of Namibia, an ethnolinguistically diverse African country that replaced Afrikaans–an established lingua franca–with English as its official language to weaken the hold of the formerly ruling White Afrikaans-speaking minority on its linguistic marketplace while symbolically empowering the Black majority. Using phonetic features elicited from an ethnolinguistically representative sample, the study finds that Whites align with South African norms while Non-Whites are developing distinctly local varieties. While ‘Coloured’ Afrikaans varieties exert some gravitational pull on Black Afrikaans varieties, a more autonomous Black English variety spearheaded by women is emerging. Informant perceptions confirm the observed polarisation between Whites and Non-Whites, with the former not perceived as a linguistic target, while the valorisation of an ethnically neutral Black urban identity appears as a major driving force behind variation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • indigenous languages
  • language contact
  • multilingualism
  • Namibian Afrikaans
  • Namibian English
  • second language
  • Sociolinguistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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