English

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Besides a simple reference to the English language as spoken in Britain, the USA and in many other parts of the world, and the reference to citizens in of England as "the English" (or "an Englishman") this word also has more specific adjectival uses in South Africa:


(a) A reference to a South African English speaking person:

This originally refered specifically to (white) South African citizens or residents, with English as a home language (or preferred language).

However, over time a problem arose here, since many people in South Africa who use English as a lingua franca, even a lingua artistica, are not necessarily from England or Britain, or even of European extraction (i.e. "white"), though the term has gradually been broadened to include all speakers who have English as a sole home or preferred language, irrespective of their ethnic or cultural origins.

(b) A reference to South African English

In the early 1970's a concerted effort to promote English language and culture in South Africa (spearheaded by Guy Butler and the 1820 Settler's Foundation) and the full recognition of South African English as the recognized local variant for educational and artistic purposes, led to conferences propounding the notion of English Speaking South Africans (ESSAs), but the term was short-lived, since it does not really solve the problem.

(c) A reference to Cultural activities and products in English:

Related to (b), but less controversially, it may be used to refer to "activities conducted and works produced in English in South Africa" (e.g. "English theatre", “English businesses”). Naturally the same problem applies here: not all English works were written by "White persons of British stock".

Loren Kruger (1999) introduced the rather clumsy phrasing "Anglophone settler culture" to express the same idea and circumvent the problem, but this has never really caught on.

However, the general convention is to consider all the works written or performed in English as "English works", unless they are clearly merely translations of works from other indigenous languages. And even here are exceptions: for example, the English translations of André P. Brink’s works are considered as part of the canon of English South African literature at many Universities. This is in line with an increasing school of thought that would see South African literature as one entity, inclusive of all writing in Southern African languages.

This is the approach long followed when we talk of South African theatre - it includes all works written/created in South Africa or by South African born authors/directors, or works produced and/or performed in South Africa.

It is interesting to note that some of the most influential foreces in the recognition of the English language and culture has come from Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, among which the founding of the English Academy of South Africa, the Institute for the Study of English in Africa (ISEA), the 1820 Settler's Foundation, the Monument Theatre, the National Arts Festival and the National English Literary Museum (NELM).

The 1994 elections and the new constitution has of course entrenched English in South Africa, since it has inevitably become the lingua franca of communication in the country, as it has internationally. The range of dialectic forms of English spoken in the country however, is enormously varied and a ripe field for research.



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