|Native to||South Africa, Namibia|
|7.2 million (2016)
10.3 million L2 speakers in South Africa (2002)
Official language in
|Regulated by||Die Taalkommissie|
Regions shaded dark blue represent areas of concentrated Afrikaans-speaking communities
Afrikaans (UK: /ˌæfrɪˈkɑːns/, US: /ˌɑːf-/) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa, Namibia and, to a lesser extent, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It evolved from the Dutch vernacular of Holland (Hollandic dialect) spoken by the largely Dutch settlers (and then by the native Africans who associated with them) in the south-west of what is now South Africa, where it gradually began to develop distinguishing characteristics in the course of the 18th century. Hence, it is a daughter language of Dutch.
Although Afrikaans has adopted words from other languages, including German and the Khoisan languages, an estimated 90 to 95% of the vocabulary of Afrikaans is of Dutch origin.[note 1] Therefore, differences with Dutch often lie in the more analytic-type morphology and grammar of Afrikaans, and a spelling that expresses Afrikaans pronunciation rather than standard Dutch. There is a large degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages—especially in written form.
With about 7 million native speakers in South Africa, or 13.5% of the population, it is the third-most-spoken language in the country. Estimates of the total number of Afrikaans speakers range between 15 and 23 million.[note 2] It has the widest geographical and racial distribution of all the 11 official languages of South Africa, and is widely spoken and understood as a second or third language.[note 3] It is the majority language of the western half of South Africa—the provinces of the Northern Cape and Western Cape—and the first language of 75.8% of Coloured South Africans (4.8 million people), 60.8% of White South Africans (2.7 million); 4.6% of Asian South Africans (58,000 people), and 1.5% of Black South Africans (600,000 people).
The term is derived from the Dutch term Afrikaansch meaning “African”. It was previously referred to as “Cape Dutch” (a term also used to refer collectively to the early Cape settlers) or “kitchen Dutch” (a derogatory term used to refer to Afrikaans in its earlier days). However, it has also been variously described as a Dutch-based creole or as a partially creolised language.
The Afrikaans language arose in the Dutch Cape Colony, through a gradual divergence from European Dutch dialects, during the course of the 18th century. As early as the mid-18th century and as recently as the mid-20th century, Afrikaans was known in standard Dutch as a “kitchen language” (Afrikaans: kombuistaal), lacking the prestige accorded, for example, even by the educational system in Africa, to languages spoken outside Africa. Other early epithets setting apart Kaaps Hollands (“Cape Dutch”, i.e. Afrikaans) as putatively beneath official Dutch standards included geradbraakt, gebroken and onbeschaafd Hollands (“mutilated/broken/uncivilised Dutch”), as well as verkeerd Nederlands (“incorrect Dutch”).
|ISO 639-3||None (
Den Besten theorises that modern Standard Afrikaans derives from two sources:
- Cape Dutch, a direct transplantation of European Dutch to Southern Africa, and
- ‘Hottentot Dutch’, a pidgin that descended from ‘Foreigner Talk’ and ultimately from the Dutch pidgin spoken by slaves, via a hypothetical Dutch creole.
Thus in his view Afrikaans is neither a creole nor a direct descendant of Dutch, but a fusion of two transmission pathways.
A relative majority of the first settlers whose descendants today are the Afrikaners were from the United Provinces (now Netherlands and Flanders), though up to one-sixth of the community was also of French Huguenot origin, and a seventh from Germany.
African and Asian workers and slaves contributed to the development of Afrikaans. The slave population was made up of people from East Africa, West Africa, India, Madagascar, and the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia). A number were also indigenous Khoisan people, who were valued as interpreters, domestic servants, and labourers. Many free and enslaved women married, cohabited with, or were victims of sexual violence from the male Dutch settlers. M. F. Valkhoff argued that 75% of children born to female slaves in the Dutch Cape Colony between 1652 and 1672 had a Dutch father. Sarah Grey Thomason and Terrence Kaufman argue that Afrikaans’ development as a separate language was “heavily conditioned by nonwhites who learned Dutch imperfectly as a second language.”
Beginning in about 1815, Afrikaans started to replace Malay as the language of instruction in Muslim schools in South Africa, written with the Arabic alphabet: see Arabic Afrikaans. Later, Afrikaans, now written with the Latin script, started to appear in newspapers and political and religious works in around 1850.
In 1875, a group of Afrikaans-speakers from the Cape formed the Genootskap vir Regte Afrikaanders (“Society for Real Afrikaners”), and published a number of books in Afrikaans including grammars, dictionaries, religious materials and histories. In 1925, Afrikaans was recognised by the South African government as a real language, rather than simply a slang version of Dutch proper.
Afrikaans was considered a Dutch dialect in South Africa until the early 20th century, when it became recognised as a distinct language under South African law, alongside Standard Dutch, which it eventually replaced as an official language. Before the Boer wars, “and indeed for some time afterwards, Afrikaans was regarded as inappropriate for educated discourse. Rather, Afrikaans was described derogatorily as “a kitchen language” or “a bastard jargon,” suitable for communication mainly between the Boers and their servants.”[better source needed]
On 8 May 1925, twenty-three years after the Second Boer War ended, the Official Languages of the Union Act of 1925 was passed—mostly due to the efforts of the Afrikaans language movement—at a joint sitting of the House of Assembly and the Senate, in which the Afrikaans language was declared a variety of Dutch. The Constitution of 1961 reversed the position of Afrikaans and Dutch, so that English and Afrikaans were the official languages, and Afrikaans was deemed to include Dutch. The Constitution of 1983 removed any mention of Dutch altogether.
The Afrikaans Language Monument is located on a hill overlooking Paarl in the Western Cape Province. Officially opened on 10 October 1975, it was erected on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Society of Real Afrikaners, and the 50th anniversary of Afrikaans being declared an official language of South Africa in distinction to Dutch.
The earliest Afrikaans texts were some doggerel verse from 1795 and a dialogue transcribed by a Dutch traveller in 1825. Afrikaans used the Latin alphabet around this time, although the Cape Muslim community used the Arabic script. In 1861, L.H. Meurant published his Zamenspraak tusschen Klaas Waarzegger en Jan Twyfelaar (“Conversation between Claus Truthsayer and John Doubter”), which is considered to be the first book published in Afrikaans.
The first grammar book was published in 1876; a bilingual dictionary was later published in 1902. The main modern Afrikaans dictionary in use is the Verklarende Handwoordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (HAT). A new authoritative dictionary, called Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT), is under development as of 2018. The official orthography of Afrikaans is the Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls, compiled by Die Taalkommissie.
The Afrikaans Bible
The Afrikaner religion had stemmed from the Protestant practices of the Reformed church of Holland during the 17th century, later on being influenced in South Africa by British ministries during the 1800s. A landmark in the development of the language was the translation of the whole Bible into Afrikaans. While significant advances had been made in the textual criticism of the Bible, especially the Greek New Testament, the 1933 translation followed the textus receptus and was closely akin to the Statenbijbel. Before this, most Cape Dutch-Afrikaans speakers had to rely on the Dutch Statenbijbel. This Statenvertaling had its origins with the Synod of Dordrecht of 1618 and was thus in an archaic form of Dutch. This was hard for Dutch and Cape Dutch speakers to understand, and increasingly unintelligible for Afrikaans speakers.
C. P. Hoogehout, Arnoldus Pannevis, and Stephanus Jacobus du Toit were the first Afrikaans Bible translators. Important landmarks in the translation of the Scriptures were in 1878 with C. P. Hoogehout’s translation of the Evangelie volgens Markus (Gospel of Mark, lit. Gospel according to Mark); however, this translation was never published. The manuscript is to be found in the South African National Library, Cape Town.
The first official translation of the entire Bible into Afrikaans was in 1933 by J. D. du Toit, E. E. van Rooyen, J. D. Kestell, H. C. M. Fourie, and BB Keet. This monumental work established Afrikaans as ‘n suiwer en ordentlike taal, that is “a pure and proper language” for religious purposes, especially amongst the deeply Calvinist Afrikaans religious community that previously had been sceptical of a Bible translation that varied from the Dutch version that they were used to.
In 1983, a fresh translation marked the 50th anniversary of the 1933 version and provided a much-needed revision. The final editing of this edition was done by E. P. Groenewald, A. H. van Zyl, P. A. Verhoef, J. L. Helberg and W. Kempen. This translation was influenced by Eugene Nida’s theory of dynamic-equavalence which focussed on finding the nearest equivalent in the receptor language to the idea that the Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic wanted to convey. The challenge to this type of translation is that it doesn’t take into account that there are shifts in meaning in the receptor language.
A new translation, Die Bybel: ‘n Direkte Vertaling is currently under preparation. It will be the first truly ecumenical translation of the Bible in Afrikaans as translators from various churches, including the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches, are involved.
Various commercial translations of the Bible in Afrikaans have also appeared since the 1990s, such as Die Boodskap and the Nuwe Lewende Vertaling. Most of these translations were published by Christelike Uitgewersmaatskappy (CUM).[vague]
Afrikaans descended from Dutch dialects in the 17th century. It belongs to a West Germanic sub-group, the Low Franconian languages. Other West Germanic languages related to Afrikaans are German, English, the Frisian languages, and the unstandardised languages Low German and Yiddish.
|Country||Speakers||Percentage of speakers||Year||Reference|
|England and Wales||11,247||0.16%||2011|||
Some state that instead of Afrikaners, which refers to an ethnic group, the terms Afrikaanses or Afrikaanssprekendes (lit. Afrikaans speakers) should be used for people of any ethnic origin who speak Afrikaans. Linguistic identity has not yet established which terms shall prevail, and all three are used in common parlance.
Afrikaans is also widely spoken in Namibia. Before independence, Afrikaans had equal status with German as an official language. Since independence in 1990, Afrikaans has had constitutional recognition as a national, but not official, language. There is a much smaller number of Afrikaans speakers among Zimbabwe’s white minority, as most have left the country since 1980. Afrikaans was also a medium of instruction for schools in Bophuthatswana, an Apartheid-era Bantustan. Eldoret in Kenya was founded by Afrikaners.
Many South Africans living and working in Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, the UAE and Kuwait are also Afrikaans-speaking. They have access to Afrikaans websites, news sites such as Netwerk24.com and Sake24, and radio broadcasts over the web, such as those from Radio Sonder Grense, Bokradio and Radio Pretoria. There are also many artists that tour to bring Afrikaans to the expats.
Afrikaans has been influential in the development of South African English. Many Afrikaans loanwords have found their way into South African English, such as bakkie (“pickup truck”), braai (“barbecue”), naartjie (“tangerine”), tekkies (American “sneakers”, British “trainers”, Canadian “runners”). A few words in standard English are derived from Afrikaans, such as aardvark (lit. “earth pig”), trek (“pioneering journey”, in Afrikaans lit. “pull” but used also for “migrate”), spoor (“animal track”), veld (“Southern African grassland” in Afrikaans, lit. “field”), commando from Afrikaans kommando meaning small fighting unit, boomslang (“tree snake”) and apartheid (“segregation”; more accurately “apartness” or “the state or condition of being apart”).
In 1976, secondary-school pupils in Soweto began a rebellion in response to the government’s decision that Afrikaans be used as the language of instruction for half the subjects taught in non-White schools (with English continuing for the other half). Although English is the mother tongue of only 8.2% of the population, it is the language most widely understood, and the second language of a majority of South Africans. Afrikaans is more widely spoken than English in the Northern and Western Cape provinces, several hundred kilometres from Soweto.
The Black community’s opposition to Afrikaans and preference for continuing English instruction was underlined when the government rescinded the policy one month after the uprising: 96% of Black schools chose English (over Afrikaans or native languages) as the language of instruction. Also, due to Afrikaans being viewed as the “language of the white oppressor” by some, pressure has been increased to remove Afrikaans as a teaching language in South African universities, resulting in bloody student protests in 2015.
Under South Africa’s Constitution of 1996, Afrikaans remains an official language, and has equal status to English and nine other languages. The new policy means that the use of Afrikaans is now often reduced in favour of English, or to accommodate the other official languages. In 1996, for example, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reduced the amount of television airtime in Afrikaans, while South African Airways dropped its Afrikaans name Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens from its livery. Similarly, South Africa’s diplomatic missions overseas now display the name of the country only in English and their host country’s language, and not in Afrikaans. Meanwhile, The constitution of the Western Cape, which went into effect in 1998, declares Afrikaans to be an official language of the province alongside English and Xhosa.
In spite of these moves, the language has remained strong, and Afrikaans newspapers and magazines continue to have large circulation figures. Indeed, the Afrikaans-language general-interest family magazine Huisgenoot has the largest readership of any magazine in the country. In addition, a pay-TV channel in Afrikaans called KykNet was launched in 1999, and an Afrikaans music channel, MK (Musiek kanaal) (lit. ‘Music Channel’), in 2005. A large number of Afrikaans books are still published every year, mainly by the publishers Human & Rousseau, Tafelberg Uitgewers, Struik, and Protea Boekhuis. The Afrikaans film trilogy Bakgat (first released in 2008) caused a reawakening of the Afrikaans film Industry (which has been dead since the mid to late 1990s[according to whom?]) and Belgian-born singer Karen Zoid‘s debut single “Afrikaners is Plesierig” (released 2001) caused a resurgence in the Afrikaans music industry as well as gave rise to the Afrikaans Rock genre.
Afrikaans has two monuments erected in its honour. The first was erected in Burgersdorp, South Africa, in 1893, and the second, nowadays better-known Afrikaans Language Monument (Afrikaanse Taalmonument), was built in Paarl, South Africa, in 1975.
When the British design magazine Wallpaper described Afrikaans as “one of the world’s ugliest languages” in its September 2005 article about the monument, South African billionaire Johann Rupert (chairman of the Richemont Group), responded by withdrawing advertising for brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and Alfred Dunhill from the magazine. The author of the article, Bronwyn Davies, was an English-speaking South African.
Mutual intelligibility with Dutch
An estimated 90 to 95% of the Afrikaans lexicon is ultimately of Dutch origin, and there are few lexical differences between the two languages. Afrikaans has a considerably more regular morphology, grammar, and spelling. There is a degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages, particularly in written form.
Afrikaans acquired some lexical and syntactical borrowings from other languages such as Malay, Khoisan languages, Portuguese, and Bantu languages, and Afrikaans has also been significantly influenced by South African English. Dutch speakers are confronted with fewer non-cognates when listening to Afrikaans than the other way round. Mutual intelligibility thus tends to be asymmetrical, as it is easier for Dutch speakers to understand Afrikaans than for Afrikaans speakers to understand Dutch.
In general, mutual intelligibility between Dutch and Afrikaans is better than between Dutch and Frisian or between Danish and Swedish. The South African poet writer Breyten Breytenbach, attempting to visualise the language distance for anglophones once remarked that the differences between (Standard) Dutch and Afrikaans are comparable to those between the Received Pronunciation and Southern American English.
Post-apartheid South Africa has seen a loss of preferential treatment by the government for Afrikaans, in terms of education, social events, media (TV and radio), and general status throughout the country, given that it now shares its place as official language with ten other languages. Nevertheless, Afrikaans remains more prevalent in the media – radio, newspapers and television – than any of the other official languages, except English. More than 300 book titles in Afrikaans are published annually. South African census figures suggest a growing number of speakers in all nine provinces, a total of 6.85 million in 2011 compared to 5.98 million a decade earlier. The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) project that a growing majority will be Coloured Afrikaans speakers. Afrikaans speakers experience higher employment rates than other South African language groups, though as of 2012 half a million remain unemployed.
Despite the challenges of demotion and emigration that it faces in South Africa, the Afrikaans vernacular remains competitive, being popular in DSTV pay channels and several internet sites, while generating high newspaper and music CD sales. A resurgence in Afrikaans popular music since the late 1990s has invigorated the language, especially among a younger generation of South Africans. A recent trend is the increased availability of pre-school educational CDs and DVDs. Such media also prove popular with the extensive Afrikaans-speaking expatriate communities who seek to retain language proficiency in a household context.
After years of slumber, Afrikaans language cinema is showing signs of new vigour. The 2007 film Ouma se slim kind, the first full-length Afrikaans movie since Paljas in 1998, is seen as the dawn of a new era in Afrikaans cinema. Several short films have been created and more feature-length movies, such as Poena is Koning and Bakgat (both in 2008) have been produced, besides the 2011 Afrikaans-language film Skoonheid, which was the first Afrikaans film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. The film Platteland was also released in 2011. The Afrikaans Film industry started gaining international recognition via the likes of big Afrikaans Hollywood film stars, like Charlize Theron (Monster) and Sharlto Copley (District 9) promoting their mother tongue.
Afrikaans seems to be returning to the SABC. SABC3 announced early in 2009 that it would increase Afrikaans programming due to the “growing Afrikaans-language market and [their] need for working capital as Afrikaans advertising is the only advertising that sells in the current South African television market”. In April 2009, SABC3 started screening several Afrikaans-language programmes. Further latent support for the language derives from its de-politicised image in the eyes of younger-generation South Africans, who less and less often view it as “the language of the oppressor”. Indeed, there is a groundswell movement within Afrikaans to be inclusive, and to promote itself along with the other indigenous official languages. In Namibia, the percentage of Afrikaans speakers declined from 11.4% (2001 Census) to 10.4% (2011 Census). The major concentrations are in Hardap (41.0%), ǁKaras (36.1%), Erongo (20.5%), Khomas (18.5%), Omaheke (10.0%), Otjozondjupa (9.4%), Kunene (4.2%), and Oshikoto (2.3%).
Many native speakers of Bantu languages and English also speak Afrikaans as a second language. It is widely taught in South African schools, with about 10.3 million second-language students. Even in KwaZulu-Natal (where there are relatively few Afrikaans home-speakers), the majority of pupils opt for Afrikaans as their first additional language because it is regarded as easier than Zulu.
Afrikaans is offered at many universities outside South Africa, for example in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Russia and America.
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In Afrikaans grammar, there is no distinction between the infinitive and present forms of verbs, with the exception of the verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to have’:
|infinitive form||present indicative form||Dutch||English||German|
|wees||is||zijn (wezen)||be||sein (gewesen)|
In addition, verbs do not conjugate differently depending on the subject. For example,
|ek is||ik ben||I am||ich bin|
|jy/u is||jij/u bent||you are (sing.)||du bist/Sie sind|
|hy/sy/dit is||hij/zij/het is||he/she/it is||er/sie/es ist|
|ons is||wij zijn||we are||wir sind|
|julle is||jullie zijn||you are (plur.)||ihr seid|
|hulle is||zij zijn||they are||sie sind|
Only a handful of Afrikaans verbs have a preterite, namely the auxiliary wees (“to be”), the modal verbs, and the verb dink (“to think”). The preterite of mag (“may”) is rare in contemporary Afrikaans.
|ek is||ek was||ik ben||ik was||I am||I was||ich bin||ich war|
|ek kan||ek kon||ik kan||ik kon||I can||I could||ich kann||ich konnte|
|ek moet||ek moes||ik moet||ik moest||I must||(I had to)||ich muss||ich musste|
|ek wil||ek wou||ik wil||ik wilde/wou||I want to||I wanted to||ich will||ich wollte|
|ek sal||ek sou||ik zal||ik zou||I shall||I should||ich werde||ich wurde|
|ek mag||(ek mog)||ik mag||ik mocht||I may||I might||ich mag||ich mochte|
|ek dink||ek dog||ik denk||ik dacht||I think||I thought||ich denke||ich dachte|
All other verbs use the perfect tense, het + past participle (ge-), for the past. Therefore, there is no distinction in Afrikaans between I drank and I have drunk. (Also in colloquial German, the past tense is often replaced with the perfect.)
|ek het gedrink||ik dronk||I drank||ich trank (formal)|
|ik heb gedronken||I have drunk||ich habe getrunken|
When telling a longer story, Afrikaans speakers usually avoid the perfect and simply use the present tense, or historical present tense instead (as is possible, but less common, in English as well).
A particular feature of Afrikaans is its use of the double negative; it is classified in Afrikaans as ontkennende vorm and is something that is absent from the other West Germanic standard languages. For example,
- Afrikaans: Hy kan nie Afrikaans praat nie, lit. ‘He can not Afrikaans speak not’
- Dutch: Hij spreekt geen Afrikaans.
- English: He can not speak Afrikaans. / He can’t speak Afrikaans.
- German: Er spricht kein Afrikaans.
Both French and San origins have been suggested for double negation in Afrikaans. While double negation is still found in Low Franconian dialects in West-Flanders and in some “isolated” villages in the centre of the Netherlands (such as Garderen), it takes a different form, which is not found in Afrikaans. The following is an example:
- Afrikaans: Ek wil nie dit doen nie.* (lit. I want not this do not.)
- Dutch: Ik wil dit niet doen.
- English: I do not want to do this.
- German: Ich will dies nicht tun.
* Compare with Ek wil nie dit doen nie, which changes the meaning to “I want not to do this.” Whereas Ek wil nie dit doen nie emphasizes a lack of desire to act, Ek wil dit nie doen nie emphasizes the act itself.
The -ne was the Middle Dutch way to negate but it has been suggested that since -ne became highly non-voiced, nie or niet was needed to complement the -ne. With time the -ne disappeared in most Dutch dialects.
The double negative construction has been fully grammaticalised in standard Afrikaans and its proper use follows a set of fairly complex rules as the examples below show:
|Afrikaans||Dutch (literally translated)||More correct Dutch||English|
|Ek het nie geweet dat hy sou kom nie.||Ik heb niet geweten dat hij zou komen.||Ik wist niet dat hij zou komen.||I did not know that he would come.|
|Ek het geweet dat hy nie sou kom nie.||Ik heb geweten dat hij niet zou komen.||Ik wist dat hij niet zou komen.||I knew (did know) that he would not come.|
|Ek het nie geweet dat hy nie sou kom nie.||Ik heb niet geweten dat hij niet zou komen.||Ik wist niet dat hij niet zou komen.||I did not know that he would not come.|
|Hy sal nie kom nie, want hy is siek.[note 4]||Hij zal niet komen, want hij is ziek.||Hij komt niet, want hij is ziek.||He will not come, as he is sick.|
|Dis (Dit is) nie so moeilik om Afrikaans te leer nie.||Het is niet zo moeilijk (om) Afrikaans te leren.||It is not so difficult to learn Afrikaans.|
A notable exception to this is the use of the negating grammar form that coincides with negating the English present participle. In this case there is only a single negation.
- Afrikaans: Hy is in die hospitaal, maar hy eet nie.
- Dutch: Hij is in het ziekenhuis, maar hij eet niet.
- English: He is in [the] hospital, though he eats not.
- German: Er ist im Krankenhaus, aber er isst nicht.
Certain words in Afrikaans arise due to grammar. For example, moet nie, which literally means “must not”, usually becomes moenie; although one does not have to write or say it like this, virtually all Afrikaans speakers will change the two words to moenie in the same way as do not shifts to don’t in English.
The Dutch word het (“it” in English) does not correspond to het in Afrikaans. The Dutch words corresponding to Afrikaans het are heb, hebt, heeft and hebben.
|het||heb, hebt, heeft, hebben||have, has||habe, hast, hat, habt, haben|
|die||de, het||the||die, der, das, den, dem|
- As phonemes, /iː/ and /uː/ occur only in the words spieël /spiːl/ ‘mirror’ and koeël /kuːl/ ‘bullet’, which used to be pronounced with sequences /i.ə/ and /u.ə/, respectively. In other cases, [iː] and [uː] occur as allophones of, respectively, /i/ and /u/ before /r/.
- /y/ is phonetically long [yː] before /r/.
- /əː/ is always stressed and occurs only in the word wîe ‘wedges’.
- The closest unrounded counterparts of /œ, œː/ are central /ə, əː/, rather than front /e, eː/.
- /œː, oː/ occur only in a few words.
- As a phoneme, /æ/ occurs as an allophone of /e/ before /k, χ, l, r/, though this occurs primarily dialectally, most commonly in the former Transvaal and Free State provinces.
|Starting point||Ending point|
- /ɔi, ai/ occur mainly in loanwords.
- All obstruents at the ends of words are devoiced, so that e.g. a final /d/ is realized as [t].
- /ɡ, dʒ, z/ occur only in loanwords. [ɡ] is also an allophone of /χ/ in some environments.
- /χ/ is most often uvular [χ ~ ʀ̥]. Velar [x] occurs only in some speakers.
- /r/ is usually an alveolar trill [r] or tap [ɾ]. In some parts of the former Cape Province, it is realized uvularly, either as a trill [ʀ] or a fricative [ʁ].
Following early dialectal studies of Afrikaans, it was theorised that three main historical dialects probably existed after the Great Trek in the 1830s. These dialects are the Northern Cape, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape dialects. Northern Cape dialect may have resulted from contact between Dutch settlers and the Khoi-Khoi people between the Great Karoo and the Kunene, and Eastern Cape dialect between the Dutch and the Xhosa. Remnants of these dialects still remain in present-day Afrikaans, although the standardising effect of Standard Afrikaans has contributed to a great levelling of differences in modern times.[better source needed]
There is also a prison cant, known as soebela or sombela, which is based on Afrikaans, yet heavily influenced by Zulu. This language is used as a secret language in prison and is taught to initiates.
The term Kaapse Afrikaans (“Cape Afrikaans”) is sometimes erroneously used to refer to the entire Western Cape dialect; it is more commonly used for a particular sociolect spoken in the Cape Peninsula of South Africa. Kaapse Afrikaans was once spoken by all population groups. However, it became increasingly restricted to the Cape Coloured ethnic group in Cape Town and environs. Kaapse Afrikaans is still understood by the large majority of native Afrikaans speakers in South Africa.
Kaapse Afrikaans preserves some features more similar to Dutch than to Afrikaans.
- The 1st person singular pronoun ik as in Dutch as opposed to Afrikaans ek
- The diminutive endings -tje, pronounced as in Dutch and not as /ki/ as in Afrikaans.
- The use of the form seg (compare Dutch zegt) as opposed to Afrikaans sê
Kaapse Afrikaans has some other features not typically found in Afrikaans.
- The pronunciation of j, normally /j/ as in Dutch is often a /dz/. This is the strongest feature of Kaapse Afrikaans.
- The insertion of /j/ after /s/, /t/ and /k/ when followed by /e/, e.g. kjen as opposed to Standard Afrikaans ken.
An example of characteristic Kaapse Afrikaans:
- Dutch: En ik zeg (tegen) jullie: wat zoeken jullie hier bij mij? Ik zoek jullie niet! Nee, ga nu weg!
- Kaapse Afrikaans: En ik seg ve’ djille, wat soek djille hie’ by my? Ik soek’ie ve’ djille nie! Nei, gaat nou weg!
- Afrikaans: En ek sê vir julle, wat soek julle hier by my? Ek soek julle nie! Nee, gaan nou weg!
- English (literal): And I say to you, what seek you here by me? I seek you not! No, go now away!
- English: And I’m telling you, what are you looking for here? I’m not looking for you! No, go away now!
The term Oranjerivierafrikaans (“Afrikaans of the Orange River”) is sometimes erroneously used to refer to the Northern Cape dialect; it is more commonly used for the regional peculiarities of standard Afrikaans spoken in the Upington/Orange River wine district of South Africa.
Some of the characteristics of Oranjerivierafrikaans are the plural form -goed (Ma-goed, meneergoed), variant pronunciation such as in kjerk (“Church”) and gjeld (“money”) and the ending -se, which indicates possession.
Although Afrikaans is mainly spoken in South Africa and Namibia, smaller Afrikaans-speaking populations live in Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Lesotho, Malawi, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Eswatini, the UAE, the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, the US, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Most Afrikaans-speaking people living outside Africa are emigrants and their descendants. Because of emigration and migrant labour, more than 100,000 Afrikaans speakers may live in the United Kingdom (UK).
Influences on Afrikaans from other languages
Due to the early settlement of a Cape Malay community in Cape Town, who are now known as Coloureds, numerous Classical Malay words were brought into Afrikaans. Some of these words entered Dutch via people arriving from, what is now known as Indonesia as part of their colonial heritage. Malay words in Afrikaans include:
- baie, which means ‘very’/’much’/’many’ (from banyak) is a very commonly used Afrikaans word, different from its Dutch equivalent veel or erg.
- baadjie, Afrikaans for jacket, where Dutch would use jas or vest. The word baadje in Dutch is now considered archaic and only used in written, literary texts.
- bobotie, a traditional Cape-Malay dish, made from spiced minced meat baked with an egg-based topping.
- piesang, which means banana. This is different from the common Dutch word banaan. The Indonesian word pisang is also used in Dutch, though usage is more common.
- piering, which means saucer (from piring).
Some words originally came from Portuguese such as sambreel (“umbrella”) from the Portuguese sombreiro, kraal (“pen/cattle enclosure”) from the Portuguese curral, and mielie (“corn”, from milho). These words have become common in South Africa to an extent of being used in many other South African languages. Some of these words also exist in Dutch, like sambreel “parasol”, though usage is less common and meanings can slightly differ.
- dagga, meaning cannabis
- geitjie, meaning lizard, diminutive adapted from Khoekhoe word
- gogga, meaning insect, from the Khoisan xo-xo
- karos, blanket of animal hides
- kierie walking stick from Khoekhoe
Some of these words also exist in Dutch, though with a more specific meaning: assegaai for example means “South-African tribal javelin” and karos means “South-African tribal blanket of animal hides”.
- fundi, from the Zulu word umfundi meaning “scholar” or “student”, but used to mean someone who is a student of/expert on a certain subject, i.e. He is a language fundi.
- lobola, meaning bride price, from (and referring to) lobolo of the Nguni languages
- mahem, the grey crowned crane, known in Latin as Balearica regulorum
- maroela, medium-sized dioecious tree known in Latin as Sclerocarya birrea
- tamboekiegras, species of thatching grass known as Hyparrhenia
- tambotie, deciduous tree also known by its Latin name, Spirostachys africana
- tjaila / tjailatyd, an adaption of the word chaile, meaning “to go home” or “to knock off (from work)”.
The revoking of the Edict of Nantes on 22 October 1685 was a milestone in the history of South Africa, for it marked the beginning of the great Huguenot exodus from France. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 300,000 Protestants left France between 1685 and 1700; out of these, according to Louvois, 100,000 had received military training. A measure of the calibre of these immigrants and of their acceptance by host countries (in particular South Africa) is given by H. V. Morton in his book: In Search of South Africa (London, 1948). The Huguenots were responsible for a great linguistic contribution to Afrikaans, particularly in terms of military terminology as many of them fought on the battlefields during the wars of the Great Trek.
Most of the words in this list are descendants from Dutch borrowings from French, Old French or Latin, and are not direct influences from French on Afrikaans.
|marsjeer||marcheer, marcheren||marcher||(to) march|
|muit||muit, muiten||mutiner||(to) mutiny|
There are many parallels between the Dutch orthography conventions and those used for Afrikaans. There are 26 letters.
In Afrikaans, many consonants are dropped from the earlier Dutch spelling. For example, slechts (‘only’) in Dutch becomes slegs in Afrikaans. Also, Afrikaans and some Dutch dialects make no distinction between /s/ and /z/, having merged the latter into the former; while the word for “south” is written zuid in Dutch, it is spelled suid in Afrikaans (as well as dialectal Dutch writings) to represent this merger. Similarly, the Dutch digraph ĳ, normally pronounced as /ɛi/, corresponds to Afrikaans y, except where it replaces the Dutch suffix –lijk which is pronounced as /lək/, as in waarschijnlijk > waarskynlik.
Another difference is the indefinite article, ‘n in Afrikaans and een in Dutch. “A book” is ‘n boek in Afrikaans, whereas it is either een boek or ‘n boek in Dutch. This ‘n is usually pronounced as just a weak vowel, [ə].
The letters c, q, x, and z occur almost exclusively in borrowings from French, English, Greek and Latin. This is usually because words that had c and ch in the original Dutch are spelled with k and g, respectively, in Afrikaans. Similarly original qu and x are spelt kw and ks, respectively. For example, ekwatoriaal instead of equatoriaal, and ekskuus instead of excuus.
The vowels with diacritics in non-loanword Afrikaans are: á, é, è, ê, ë, í, î, ï, ó, ô, ö, ú, û, ü, ý. Diacritics are ignored when alphabetising, though they are still important, even when typing the diacritic forms may be difficult. For example, geëet instead of the 3 e’s alongside each other: *geeet, which can never occur in Afrikaans, or sê, which translates to “say”, whereas se is a possessive form.
A few short words in Afrikaans take initial apostrophes. In modern Afrikaans, these words are always written in lower case (except if the entire line is uppercase), and if they occur at the beginning of a sentence, the next word is capitalised. Three examples of such apostrophed words are ‘k, ‘t, ‘n. The last (the indefinite article) is the only apostrophed word that is common in modern written Afrikaans, since the other examples are shortened versions of other words (ek and het, respectively) and are rarely found outside of a poetic context.
Here are a few examples:
|Apostrophed version||Usual version||Translation||Notes|
|‘k ‘t Dit gesê||Ek het dit gesê||I said it||Uncommon, more common: Ek’t dit gesê|
|‘t Jy dit geëet?||Het jy dit geëet?||Did you eat it?||Extremely uncommon|
|‘n Man loop daar||A man walks there||Standard Afrikaans pronounces ‘n as a schwa vowel.|
The apostrophe and the following letter are regarded as two separate characters, and are never written using a single glyph, although a single character variant of the indefinite article appears in Unicode, ŉ.
Table of characters
For more on the pronunciation of the letters below, see Help:IPA/Afrikaans.
|Grapheme||IPA||Examples and Notes|
|a||/a/, /ɑː/||appel (‘apple’; /a/), tale (‘languages’; /ɑː/). Represents /a/ at word end and before double consonants and /ɑː/ before single consonant-vowel|
|aa||/ɑː/||aap (‘monkey’, ‘ape’)|
|ai||/ai/||baie (‘many’, ‘much’ or ‘very’), ai (expression of frustration or resignation)|
|b||/b/, /p/||boom (‘tree’); devoiced word-finally|
|c||/s/, /k/||Found only in borrowed words or proper nouns; the former pronunciation occurs before ‘e’, ‘i’, or ‘y’; featured in the plural ending -ici (also written isie), as in the plural of medikus (‘medic’), medici|
|ch||/ʃ/, /x/, /k/||chirurg (‘surgeon’; /ʃ/; typically sj is used instead), chemie (‘chemistry’; /x/), chitien (‘chitin’; /k/). Found only in loanwords and proper nouns|
|d||/d/, /t/||dag (‘day’), deel (‘part’, ‘divide’, ‘share’). Allophonically devoiced word-finally, or at the end of a root before liquids or other voiceless phonemes|
|dj||/d͡ʒ/, /k/||djati (‘teak’), broodjie (‘sandwich’). Used to transcribe foreign words for the former pronunciation or in the diminutive suffix -djie for the latter, in words ending with d|
|e||/e(ː)/, /æ(ː)/, /ɪə/, /ə/||bed (/e/), mens (‘person’, /eː/) beter (‘better’, /ɪə/ and /ə/ respectively), ek (‘I’, /æ/), berg (‘mountain’, /æː/)|
|è||/e/||nè (‘yes?’, ‘right?’), dè (‘here, take this!’ or ‘[this is] yours!’); Used exclusively in interjections|
|ê||/eː/, /æː/||sê (‘to say’), wêreld (‘world’). Allophonically /æː/ before /x/, /k/, /l/, or /r/|
|ë||–||Diaeresis indicates the start of new syllable, thus ë, ëe and ëi are pronounced like ‘e’, ‘ee’ and ‘ei’, respectively|
|ee||/ɪə/||weet (‘to know’), een (‘one’)|
|eeu||/iːu/||by itself, this trigraphs means ‘century’.|
|ei||/ɛi/||lei (‘to lead’)|
|eu||/ɪø/||seun (‘son’ or ‘lad’)|
|g||/x/, /ɡ/||/ɡ/ exists as the allophone of /x/ if at the end of a root word preceded by /r/ and succeeded by a schwa, e.g. berg (‘mountain’) is pronounced as /bæːrx/, and berge is pronounced as /bæːrɡə/|
|gh||/ɡ/||gholf (‘golf’). Used for /ɡ/ when it is not an allophone of /x/; found only in borrowed words. If the h acts as the beginning of the suffix -heid when added to a word ending with g, the two letters are pronounced separately.|
|h||/ɦ/||hael (‘hail’), hond (‘dog’)|
|i||/i/, /ə/||kind (‘child’; /ə/), ink (‘ink’; /ə/), krisis (‘crisis’; /i/ for first ‘i’ and /ə/ for second ‘i’), elektrisiteit (‘electricity’; /i/ for first and second ‘i’; third ‘i’ is part of diphthong ‘ei’)|
|î||/əː/||wîe (plural of wig; ‘wedges’ or ‘quoins’)|
|ï||–||Found in words such as beïnvloed (‘to influence’). The diaeresis indicates the start of new syllable, thus ï and ïe are pronounced like ‘i’ and ‘ie’ respectively|
|k||/k/||kat (‘cat’), kan (‘can’ (verb) or ‘jug’)|
|ng||/ŋ/||sing (‘to sing’)|
|o||/o/, /ʊə/||op (‘up(on)’; /o/), grote (‘size’; /ʊə/)|
|ö||–||Found in words such as mikroörganisme (‘micro-organism’). The diaeresis indicates the start of new syllable, thus ö is pronounced the same as ‘o’ based on the following remainder of the word.|
|oe||/u/||boek (‘book’), koel (‘cool’)|
|oo||/ʊə/||oom (‘uncle’ or ‘sir’)|
|ooi||/oːi/||mooi (‘pretty’, ‘beautiful’), nooi (‘saying for little girl’ or ‘invitation’)|
|ou||/ɵu/||oupa (‘grandpa’, ‘grandfather’), koud (‘cold’). Sometimes spelled ouw in loanwords and surnames, for example Louw.|
|p||/p/||pot (‘pot’), pers (‘purple’ — or ‘press’ indicating the news media)|
|q||/k/||Found only in foreign words with original spelling maintained; typically k is used instead|
|s||/s/, /z/, /ʃ/||ses (‘six’), stem (‘voice’ or ‘vote’), posisie (‘position’, /z/ for first ‘s’, /s/ for second ‘s’), rasioneel (‘rational’, /ʃ/)|
|sj||/ʃ/||sjaal (‘shawl’), sjokolade (‘chocolate’)|
|t||/t/, /ʃ/||tafel (‘table’), aktuaris (‘actuary’; /ʃ/)|
|tj||/tʃ/, /k/||tjank (‘whine like a dog’ or ‘to cry incessantly’). The former pronunciation occurs at the beginning of a word and the latter in “-tjie”, where it is slightly fronted|
|u||/œ/, /y(ː)/||kus (‘coast’ or ‘kiss’), muur|
|ü||–||Found in words such as reünie (‘reunion’). The diaeresis indicates the start of a new syllable, thus ü is pronounced the same u, except when found in proper nouns and surnames from German, like Müller.|
|v||/f/, /v/||vis (‘fish’), visuëel (‘visual’)|
|w||/v/, /w/||water (‘water’; /v/); allophonically /w/ after obstruents within a root; an example: kwas (‘brush’; /w/)|
|x||/z/, /ks/||xifoïed (‘xiphoid’; /z/), x-straal (‘x-ray’; /ks/).|
|z||/z/||Zoeloe (‘Zulu’). Found only in onomatopoeia and loanwords|
Although there are many different dialects and accents, the transcription would be fairly standard.
|Hallo! Hoe gaan dit?||[ɦalœu ɦu χɑːn dət]||Hallo! Hoe gaat het (met jou/je/u)?
Also used: Hallo! Hoe is het?
|[ɦɑloː ɦu ɣaːn ɦət]||Hello! How goes it? (Hello! How are you?)||Hallo! Wie geht’s? (Hallo! Wie geht’s dir/Ihnen?)|
|Baie goed, dankie.||[baiə χut daŋki]||Heel goed, dank je.||[ɦeːl ɣut dɑŋk jə]||Very well, thank you.||Sehr gut, danke.|
|Praat jy Afrikaans?||[prɑːt jəi afrikɑːns]||Spreek/Praat jij/je Afrikaans?||[spreːk/praːt jɛi̯/jə ɑfrikaːns]||Do you speak Afrikaans?||Sprichst du Afrikaans?|
|Praat jy Engels?||[prɑːt jəi ɛŋəls]||Spreek/Praat jij/je Engels?||[spreːk/praːt jɛi̯/jə ɛŋəls]||Do you speak English?||Sprichst du Englisch?|
Also: Nee. (Colloquial)
|‘n Bietjie.||[ə biki]||Een beetje.||[ə beːtjə]||A bit.||Ein bisschen. Sometimes shortened in text: “‘n bisschen”|
|Wat is jou naam?||[vat əs jœu nɑːm]||Hoe heet jij/je? / Wat is jouw naam?||[ʋɑt ɪs jɑu̯ naːm]||What is your name?||Wie heißt du? / Wie ist dein Name?|
|Die kinders praat Afrikaans.||[di kənərs prɑːt afrikɑːns]||De kinderen spreken/praten Afrikaans.||[də kɪndərən spreːkən/praːtən ɑfrikaːns]||The children speak Afrikaans.||Die Kinder sprechen Afrikaans.|
|Ek is lief vir jou.
Less common: Ek het jou lief.
|[æk əs lif fər jœu]||Ik hou van jou/je.
Common in Southern Dutch: Ik heb je/jou/u lief.
|[ɪk ɦɑu̯ vɑn jɑu̯/jə], [ɪk ɦɛb jə/jɑu̯/y lif]||I love you.||Ich liebe dich.
Also: Ich habe dich lieb. (Colloquial; virtually no romantic connotation)
In the Dutch language the word Afrikaans means African, in the general sense. Consequently, Afrikaans is commonly denoted as Zuid-Afrikaans. This ambiguity also exists in Afrikaans itself and is resolved either in the context of its usage, or by using Afrika- in the adjective sense (e.g. Afrika-olifant for African elephant).
A handful of Afrikaans words are exactly the same as in English. The following Afrikaans sentences, for example, are exactly the same in the two languages, in terms of both their meaning and spelling; only their pronunciation differs.
- My pen was in my hand. ([məi pɛn vas ən məi ɦant])
- My hand is in warm water. ([məi ɦant əs ən varm vɑːtər])
Die Here is my Herder, ek kom niks kort nie.
Hy laat my rus in groen weivelde. Hy bring my by waters waar daar vrede is.
Hy gee my nuwe krag. Hy lei my op die regte paaie tot eer van Sy naam.
Selfs al gaan ek deur donker dieptes, sal ek nie bang wees nie, want U is by my. In U hande is ek veilig.
Die Here is my Herder, niks sal my ontbreek nie.
Hy laat my neerlê in groen weivelde; na waters waar rus is, lei Hy my heen.
Hy verkwik my siel; Hy lei my in die spore van geregtigheid, om sy Naam ontwil.
Al gaan ek ook in ‘n dal van doodskaduwee, ek sal geen onheil vrees nie; want U is met my: u stok en u staf die vertroos my.
Ons Vader in die hemel, laat U Naam geheilig word.
Laat U koningsheerskappy spoedig kom.
Laat U wil hier op aarde uitgevoer word soos in die hemel.
Gee ons die porsie brood wat ons vir vandag nodig het.
En vergeef ons ons sondeskuld soos ons ook óns skuldenaars vergewe het.
Bewaar ons sodat ons nie aan verleiding sal toegee nie; en bevry ons van die greep van die Bose.
Want van U is die koninkryk,
en die krag,
en die heerlikheid,
tot in ewigheid. Amen
Onse Vader wat in die hemel is,
laat U Naam geheilig word;
laat U koninkryk kom;
laat U wil geskied op die aarde,
net soos in die hemel.
Gee ons vandag ons daaglikse brood;
en vergeef ons ons skulde
soos ons ons skuldenaars vergewe
en laat ons nie in die versoeking nie
maar verlos ons van die Bose
Want aan U behoort die koninkryk
en die krag
en die heerlikheid
tot in ewigheid. Amen
- Aardklop Arts Festival
- Afrikaans literature
- Afrikaans speaking population in South Africa
- Arabic Afrikaans
- Handwoordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (Afrikaans Dictionary)
- Differences between Afrikaans and Dutch
- Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (Arts Festival)
- Languages of South Africa
- Languages of Zimbabwe#Afrikaans
- List of Afrikaans language poets
- List of Afrikaans singers
- List of English words of Afrikaans origin
- South African Translators’ Institute
- Afrikaans borrowed from other languages such as Portuguese, German, Malay, Bantu and Khoisan languages; see Sebba 1997, p. 160, Niesler, Louw & Roux 2005, p. 459.
90 to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is ultimately of Dutch origin; see Mesthrie 1995, p. 214, Mesthrie 2002, p. 205, Kamwangamalu 2004, p. 203, Berdichevsky 2004, p. 131, Brachin & Vincent 1985, p. 132.
- What follows are estimations. Afrikaans has 16.3 million speakers; see de Swaan 2001, p. 216. Afrikaans has a total of 16 million speakers; see Machan 2009, p. 174. About 9 million people speak Afrikaans as a second or third language; see Alant 2004, p. 45, Proost 2006, p. 402. Afrikaans has over 5 million native speakers and 15 million second-language speakers; see Réguer 2004, p. 20. Afrikaans has about 6 million native and 16 million second language speakers; see Domínguez & López 1995, p. 340. In South Africa, over 23 million people speak Afrikaans, of which a third are first-language speakers; see Page & Sonnenburg 2003, p. 7. L2 “Black Afrikaans” is spoken, with different degrees of fluency, by an estimated 15 million; see Stell 2008–2011, p. 1.
- It has the widest geographical and racial distribution of all the official languages of South Africa; see Webb 2003, pp. 7, 8, Berdichevsky 2004, p. 131. It has by far the largest geographical distribution; see Alant 2004, p. 45.
It is widely spoken and understood as a second or third language; see Deumert & Vandenbussche 2003, p. 16, Kamwangamalu 2004, p. 207, Myers-Scotton 2006, p. 389, Simpson 2008, p. 324, Palmer 2001, p. 141, Webb 2002, p. 74, Herriman & Burnaby 1996, p. 18, Page & Sonnenburg 2003, p. 7, Brook Napier 2007, pp. 69, 71.
An estimated 40% have at least a basic level of communication; see Webb 2003, p. 7 McLean & McCormick 1996, p. 333.
- kan would be best used in this case because kan nie means cannot and since he is sick he is unable to come, whereas sal is “will” in English and is thus not the best word choice.
- Afrikaans at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
- Webb (2002), 14:78.
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- For morphology; see Holm 1989, p. 338, Geerts & Clyne 1992, p. 72. For grammar and spelling; see Sebba 1997, p. 161.
- Dutch and Afrikaans share mutual intelligibility; see Gooskens 2007, p. 453, Holm 1989, p. 338, Baker & Prys Jones 1997, p. 302, Egil Breivik & Håkon Jahr 1987, p. 232.
For written mutual intelligibility; see Sebba 2007, Sebba 1997, p. 161.
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Afrikaans is rooted in seventeenth century dialects of Dutch; see Holm 1989, p. 338, Geerts & Clyne 1992, p. 71, Mesthrie 1995, p. 214, Niesler, Louw & Roux 2005, p. 459.
Afrikaans is variously described as a creole, a partially creolised language, or a deviant variety of Dutch; see Sebba 2007, p. 116.
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