Uses and functions of English in Namibia's multiethnic settings

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20 Citations (Scopus)


In a context where new English varieties from the Outer Circle have been receiving increasing attention, I propose to outline a descriptive approach to their uses and functions on the basis of their patterns of co-occurrence with local languages across intra and inter-ethnic boundaries. The case study I offer is Namibia, a multiethnic and multilingual African country where English has been the sole official language since 1990 without having had much local history prior to that date. The general question that I pose is to what extent and how English is used in informal interactions in Namibia. Considering Namibia's ethnolinguistic diversity as well as the locally widespread practice of code-switching, the questions I more specifically ask are: What are the patterns of code-switching with which English finds itself associated both within and across Namibia's inter-ethnic boundaries, and how can they be characterized in terms of social function? On the basis of a corpus of intra- and inter-ethnic interactions involving a range of Namibian ethnicities, I show evidence of a continuum of linguistic usage ranging from different patterns of code-switching involving English and local languages to more or less monolingual English varieties. I finally place that evidence within the perspective of new Englishes theory, emphasizing the possible relevance of code-switching patterns to the emergence of indigenized English varieties in general, and of an indigenized Namibian variety in particular.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-241
Number of pages19
JournalWorld Englishes
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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