Original Research

Language maintenance and shift among amaBhaca of Umzimkhulu, KwaZulu-Natal

Yanga L.P. Majola, Zempilo S. Gumede, Nontobeko T. Mbatha
Literator | Vol 44, No 1 | a1927 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v44i1.1927 | © 2023 Yanga L.P. Majola, Zempilo S. Gumede, Nontobeko T. Mbatha | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 June 2022 | Published: 24 February 2023

About the author(s)

Yanga L.P. Majola, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Mbombela, South Africa
Zempilo S. Gumede, School of Education, Faculty of Humanities, Durban University of Technology, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Nontobeko T. Mbatha, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

Umzimkhulu, previously Transkei, is a small KwaZulu-Natal town. AmaBhaca Umzimkhulu residents speak isiBhaca, a dialect of isiXhosa that is mutually intelligible with isiZulu and siSwati. IsiBhaca is not official in South Africa. Most Umzimkhulu residents are amaBhaca, although education, health, religious, and government institutions use isiZulu and isiXhosa. This article investigated Umzimkhulu amaBhaca language maintenance and shift. The possibility of maintaining isiBhaca or shifting to isiZulu or isiXhosa is examined. The article used a mixed-methods approach, and data were acquired from purposively selected participants who have been classified as isiBhaca speakers born and raised in Umzimkhulu. The findings showed that isiBhaca is closer to isiZulu than isiXhosa, despite being designated a dialect of isiXhosa. The 2006 categorization of Umzimkhulu under KZN caused this trend toward isiZulu. This article showed that the amaBhaca are abandoning their language since they must use dominant/standard languages as the official language. Thus, they had to prioritise knowledge of the two over L1 to survive. It was demonstrated that many value isiBhaca and want it promoted. Others prefer dominant languages like isiXhosa or isiZulu and are unconcerned about the extinction of isiBhaca.

Contribution: This research shows the importance of the revitalisation and preservation of minority languages and non-standard languages such as isiBhaca. This study is expected to impact sociolinguistics significantly in Southern Africa and other places with diverse languages and dialects.


Keywords

Language; identity and culture; language maintenance and shift; isiBhaca; dialectology; standardisation

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