Die slag toe slim sy baas gevang het

  • Christo van Rensburg University of Pretoria


The day when the clever arguments misfired. Some very interesting observations can be made in describing the history of the standardising of Afrikaans. It is possible that the plans that Lord Milner had in mind for the establishing of an exclusive English language in South Africa during the early years of the twentieth century could be the starting point of Afrikaans as an official language some two decades later.Afrikaans was a well-known spoken language by 1910. It started with the Khoi, using their language as a base, and then adapting the language of the seafarers on the Dutch ships, which they construed as a new trade language: Afrikaans. This language later became one of the main languages of the central parts of South Africa. The sheep and cattle farmers from the interior spoke a language that was far removed from Dutch as well. These two Afrikaans dialects were not used for higher functions, and they influenced each other to a great extent.The tradition among speakers of Afrikaans of using Dutch whenever the written functions of Dutch were required was one of the main deterrents for broadening the scope of Afrikaans. Dutch was used in the public schools with little success, largely due to Dutch not being a home language for the Afrikaans scholars attending those schools. In fact, Dutch was hardly a spoken language in South Africa, but it was a language with well-established higherfunctions, which Afrikaans lacked. In this context, the use of Dutch in schools prevented mother-tongue speakers of Afrikaans’ education in their mother tongue.Emphasising the need for Afrikaans as a medium of instruction for Afrikaans-speaking pupils,Langenhoven used some clever arguments to gain the support in 1914 of the Dutch-oriented South African Academy for Language, Literature and Art (Zuid-Afrikaansche Akademie voor Taal, Letteren en Kunst) for his plan to introduce Afrikaans as a language of choice in the public schools where Dutch was taught as well. Rather unexpectedly, the Academy supported his plan.It appears that Langenhoven struck a deal with the pro-Dutch language association, the ZuidAfrikaansche Taalbond, beforehand, which left the Afrikaans language commission no other option but to use Dutch spelling rules to spell Afrikaans.The direct outcome of this arrangement is discussed here, as well as some of the consequences following from it.


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Part I: Afrikaans centre-stage