Social mobility as a factor in restructuring: Black Cape Dutch in perspective

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Despite regular objections, creole research tends to regard Europeans-to-non- Europeans ratios in colonial settings as a decisive factor in degrees of restructuring. As a result, relatively high proportions of Europeans are seen as the explanation for the emergence of partially restructured varieties. Quite problematic, however, is that some colonial settings with relatively low proportions of Europeans show little historical evidence of restructuring. To address this apparent paradox while avoiding too locale-specific explanations, I attempt to sketch a unified sociolinguistic account of restructuring, or the absence thereof. Central to the account I propose is the notion of upward social mobility in colonial societies, whose linguistic impact I illustrate by means of a comparison between Orange River Afrikaans (ORA)1 and Cape Malay Dutch (CMD), i.e. two partially restructured non-European varieties of Dutch that arose at the colonial Cape. I emphasize that ORA, which developed in socially fluid frontier settings, seems in certain respects to display less restructuring than CMD, which developed in increasingly segregated settings. I present the fact that Europeans were less represented where ORA developed than where CMD did as evidence that social mobility might to an extent override European/non-European demographics as a factor in degrees of restructuring. I finally discuss the extent to which a socio-historical reconstruction of ORA and CMD can shed light. on historical sociolinguistic developments elsewhere than the Cape, such as in particular colonial Ibero-America.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-137
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Pidgin and Creole Languages
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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