Trends in linguistic diversity in post-independence Windhoek: A qualitative appraisal

Gerald Stell

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This article provides a qualitative description of current patterns of linguistic diversity in Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek, using as its main source of data perceptions elicited from an ethnically representative sample of Windhoek residents on language-related themes. The data suggest that the pre-independence diglossic pattern which involved Afrikaans as high-status language and ethnic indigenous languages as low-status languages is giving way to a triglossic pattern dominated by English–the country’s only official language since 1990. Indigenous ethnic languages are still hardly used for inter-ethnic communication, which seems to be a correlate of ‘hard’ inter-ethnic boundaries inherited from apartheid. Instead, the dominant linguistic patterns of informal inter-ethnic communication in Windhoek rely either mostly on English, or on mixed linguistic repertoires combining ‘Coloured Afrikaans’ and English. Which of the two linguistic options dominates depends on the interactants’ race, ethnicity, length of stay in Windhoek, and social networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-348
Number of pages23
JournalLanguage Matters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Afrikaans
  • English
  • language policy
  • multilingualism
  • Namibian languages
  • sociolinguistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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