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Type Journal Article - Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Title Revisiting the prevalence of English: Language use outside the home in South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2020
Page numbers 1-13
ABSTRACT In this study, we revisit the status of English relative to the African languages in South Africa by analysing new national data on the main language spoken outside the home. These data, which derive from the General Household Surveys of 2017 and 2018, complement commonly collected data on the main language spoken within the home. Our analysis shows that only a small minority of ‘Africans’ report speaking English most often outside the home, and that the large majority speak the same African language both inside and outside the home. These findings suggest that the dominance of English must be distinguished from its prevalence, and they point to the continued vitality of African languages in the country. In the latter part of the study, we discuss various reasons for these language patterns, including the continuing salience of residential segregation by race, changes in the labour market and the accompanying rise of the African middle-class, and the significance of African languages as markers of identity and resistance to the importance of English in domains of power.

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