Complexity in word-formation processes in new varieties of South African English

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 11
  • Abstract:

    The research question posed in the article is whether South African English (SAE) has reached Phase four of Schneider’s (2007) Dynamic Model of Postcolonial Englishes. This phase is characterised by early indications of linguistic convergence between the Indigenous and Settler strands. In the article, the focus is on lexical innovation and morphologically complex forms in a corpus of approximately 703 300 words from the Vaal Weekly community newspaper. The data are analysed according to semantic domains and morphological structure. To determine if SAE has gone beyond Phase three of Schneider’s (2007) model, three criteria are proposed: generality, acceptability and codification in dictionaries. The results show that lexical innovations in the semantic domains are often loanwords originating from the culture of the indigenous strand. There is considerable evidence supporting Phase four among lexical innovations: widespread semantic diffusion, a considerable degree of acceptability, as indicated by use in other newspapers, and codification in the South African Concise Oxford Dictionary. The results for the morphology of complex words show that most of these forms are unique to the Vaal Weekly. The generality and more than negligible degree of acceptability of compounding also indicate that SAE has reached Phase four, but derivational processes, while revealing some generality for negation, otherwise fail to meet the criteria of acceptability and codification. The majority of the analyses support a conclusion that SAE has entered Phase four, but morphologically complex forms are not yet conclusive in this respect