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Examine the representation of the relationship between language and power inSouth African Literature

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by Evelyn Naudorf
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Examine the representation of the relationship between language and power inSouth African Literature by Evelyn Naudorf

'The choice of language and the use to which language is put is central to a people's
definition of themselves in relation to their natural and social environment, indeed in
relation to the entire universe.'1
This quote by the Kenyan writer Ngugi expresses the exceedingly important relationship
between language and the individual in general. This relationship is gaining even more
importance for a continent such as Africa, in which large parts of the native population were
oppressed by European colonial powers for centuries. One important instrument of oppression
was definitely language and the feeling of European superiority resulting out of cultural
traditions, such as literature. In South Africa, where two major colonial powers were fighting
for supremacy and many different native ethnic groups were combined in one state, the
question of language would almost naturally provoke conflicts and crisis. In this essay, I
should like to have a closer look at this delicate relationship between language and power in
South African literature with the example of a Black and a White African writer, Sol T.
Plaatje and Nadine Gordimer. In his historical overview, Leonard Thompson already describes the South Africa of the 18th
century as a 'linguistic Babel'2. Afrikaans, a simplified form of Dutch and at first only used in
oral communication, would gradually develop into the lingua franca of South Africa. Today,
its greatest competitor among European languages is English and both languages, together
with nine African languages, belong to the eleven official languages of the postapartheid
South African State. The right of every South African to use the language of his or her choice
is now embedded in the constitution. However, the situation of having eleven official
languages is truly unique world-wide. One of the most pressing question is whether there is a
necessity to agree on a single language as the official one, with the other ten languages
receiving an equally high status, in order to support the current process of nation-building? If
so, should it be English, Afrikaans or one of the African languages? [...]
1 Ngugi wa Thiong'o. Decolonising the Mind, page 4

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Ebook Details
Pages: 15
Size: 149 KB
Publisher: GRIN Verlag
Date published:   2003
ISBN: 9783638191159

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Nonfiction > Literary Criticism > English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh

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Nonfiction > Literary Criticism > English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
Nonfiction > Language Arts & Disciplines

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