Original Research

A perspective on a period of contact between Khoi and Afrikaans

Christo van Rensburg
Literator | Vol 34, No 2 | a413 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v34i2.413 | © 2013 Christo van Rensburg | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 December 2012 | Published: 21 June 2013

About the author(s)

Christo van Rensburg, Research Unit for Languages and Literature in the South African context, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa


In the search for the roots of Afrikaans, early linguists focused on similarities between Afrikaans and Dutch. The influence of non-European languages received little attention. In the course of time, the focus of this field of study changed. Closer attention was paid to language in contact situations in different regions where non-Dutch speakers, as well as Dutch speakers were involved. Data gained from these studies contributed to a better understanding of the origin and history of Afrikaans, and gave more answers to earlier unsolved questions. Discussed here are the details and importance of the contact and the interchange of languages among groups in the interior border area. Khoi-Afrikaans and stock farmers’ Afrikaans were both spoken in this region and gradually modified between 1700 and 1800. This could easily have been the most important phase in the history of Afrikaans, in which there were fundamental changes in the way the language was spoken. The circumstances under which contact took place and the change in social roles of these two languages are also discussed. Forms that were at first stigmatised as Khoi-Afrikaans, later became part of the general Afrikaans vocabulary and grammar. The central question is: How did this happen? The shifting of the norms regarding the spoken language in the interior border area can be understood when the sociohistorical situation in which these varieties of Afrikaans were used, is studied closely. One of the results of this contact and interchange between languages, and the gradual shifting in norms that followed, is discussed by way of illustration: the Khoi usage of ‘ons’ as subject and its integration into everyday Afrikaans.


Formation of Afrikaans; History of Afrikaans; Inland border Afrikaans; Khoi-Afrikaans; Stock farmers Afrikaans; Varieties of Afrikaans


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