Social identities in post-apartheid intergroup communication patterns: Linguistic evidence of an emergent nonwhite pan-ethnicity in Namibia?

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There has been considerable interest in the linguistic emergence of "pan-ethnicities" in urban Europe, while much less attention has been paid to the emergence of such identities in post-colonial contexts, where it could serve as an indicator of nation-building processes. The case study I propose is Namibia, a country bearing a legacy of segregation along ethnolinguistic lines. Relying on an experimentally set-up corpus of interethnic interactions, I investigate patterns of linguistic convergence and divergence/maintenance across ethnic combinations. On the basis of an analysis of lexical and morphosyntactic variation as well as of code-switching patterns involving up to three languages simultaneously (i.e. Afrikaans, English and one among the various Namibian ingroup languages), I first identify evidence of a general dichotomy between whites and nonwhites. I further identify evidence of a Nonwhite pan-ethnicity, which, however, reveals upon closer inspection signs of a socio-historical division between northern and southern ethnicities. Finally, I demonstrate the relevance of "multiethnolectal studies" to describing nation-building processes by placing the findings of this study in a broad post-colonial context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-114
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Issue number230
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • code-switching
  • interaction
  • language variation
  • Namibia
  • new ethnicities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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