Language policy and orthographic harmonization across linguistic, ethnic and national boundaries in Southern Africa

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 11
  • Abstract:

    Drawing on online and daily newspapers, speakers' language and writing practices, official government documents and prescribed spelling systems in Southern Africa, the paper explores the challenges and possibilities of orthographic reforms allowing for mobility across language clusters, ethnicity, regional and national borders. I argue that this entails a different theorisation of language, and for orthographies that account for the translocations and diasporic nature of late modern African identities and lifestyles. I suggest an ideological shift from prescriptivism to practice-orientated approaches to harmonisation in which orthographies are based on descriptions of observable writing practices in the mobile linguistic universe. The argument for orthographic reforms is counterbalanced with an expose on current language policies which appear designed for an increasing rare monoglot 'standard' speaker, who speaks only a 'tribal' language. The implications of the philosophical challenges this poses for linguists, language planners and policy makers are thereafter discussed.