Language policy and nation-building in post-apartheid South Africa.
While not essential, the link between language and national identity is nevertheless often a highly important and salient one, a fact illustrated by the centrality of linguistic concerns in many nationalist discourses throughout the world. As a result of this linkage, it is understandable that those seeking to create or manipulate national identities have habitually attempted to do so through the formulation and implementation of language policy and planning. This thesis develops a broad theoretical framework for the study of national identity and language policy. Of particular interest is the manner in which these two phenomena frequently interact and the societal consequences of that interaction. South Africa represents a fascinating historical and contemporary context in which to investigate the effect of language policy and planning on the formation of social identities. From the earliest stages of European colonisation to the present day, successive governing regimes have attempted to manipulate the various ethnic and national identities of the South African population to suit their own ideological agendas. In the post-apartheid era, much has been made of the government's official policy commitment to promote 'nation-building' through the institutionalisation of genuinely multilingual practices in public life. In reality, though, public life in present-day South Africa is notable for its increasingly monolingual-English character. This contradiction between official policy and actual linguistic practices is symptomatic of the hegemony of an implicit 'English-only' ideology that permeates most governmental and public organisations. This has led to a situation of highly salient language-based identity conflict between many Afrikaans speakers resentful of the decreasing presence of Afrikaans in public life and those loyal to the de facto monolingual model of nationhood promoted by the ANC. But perhaps the most pernicious consequence of this increasing dominance of English has been its entrenchment of elitist governing practices that ensure the continued socio-economic marginalisation of African language speakers who constitute the large majority of South African citizens. If language planners are to convincingly address this problem, it is clear that a radically alternative model of language policy and national integration needs to be promoted and adopted.
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