Research trip to Durban, South Africa

fieldtrip SA

To conduct further research on microvariation in isiZulu/isiNdebele, I spent April 2023 in Durban (South Africa) after having done fieldwork in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) the year before. This was my first time in the capital of Kwa-Zulu-Natal. As I got to know some parts of the city, I met young people who work in the streets in the informal sector (uber drivers, beach and street vendors, artists, etc.). Through interviews, participant observation and focus group recordings, I learnt that slang and youth language are a multilayered phenomenon in Durban. While isiTsotsi/tsotsitaal is s commonly used street language of the (young) people of Durban with origins in language practices of criminal sectors, more registers and ways of speaking have emerged in the prisons. The gangs that emerge in prison are based on numbers that people “earn” through certain behaviour, and every gang has their own language (register), for example the language of number 26 is Istaliyane while the language of number 28 is called Isnongoloza. These registers exhibit small variations with regard to greetings and terms of address, among others. A fruitful new research area for our study of microvariation in Bantu youth language practices.

Picture of Andrea Hollington

Andrea Hollington

Post Doc, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

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