Language Rights and Minorities in South Africa

Kristin Henrard

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South Africa contains numerous linguistic population groups, all of which can be considered linguistic minorities, with the possible exception of the English-speaking group. Between 1910 and 1994 South Africa had two official languages, English and Dutch (later Afrikaans). Simultaneously, the indigenous and Indian languages were given a grossly inferior status. During the negotiations for a constitution for post-apartheid South Africa, the status of the languages spoken in South Africa proved particularly sensitive. Several constitutional provisions are relevant in this respect. Although the constitutional framework concerning the accommodation of South Africa's linguistic diversity is rather promising, practice reveals a de facto denial of several constitutional principles concerning the status of languages and multi-lingualism, which goes hand in hand with the emergence of English as lingua franca. However, most linguistic policies in South Africa are still at the developmental stage and promising developments seem under way.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Henrard, Kristin. Language Rights and Minorities in South Africa. IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2001, vol. 3, no.2, pp. 78-98. UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574.

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