How Come Ikalanga has Maintained its Vitality Despite its Marginalization?

Herman M. Batibo, M. M. Kopi


According to Batibo (2005:51), more than 81% of the African languages are minority languages in that they are used only within their local confines. Apart from their relatively small number of speakers, they neither have official status nor national public functions in the countries where they are spoken. However, one may recognize two types of minority languages, namely the ones which are conspicuously vibrant in their community use and the ones which are in danger of extinction, as their speakers are progressively shifting to other languages. This article examines the case of Ikalanga, a Bantu language spoken in the north eastern part of Botswana (in southern Africa), which, although a marginalized minority language in view of its being confined to family and community use, has maintained its vitality. The study investigates the factors which have favoured this state of language vitality. It discusses extensively the role of each of these factors. The main argument of the study is that language vitality does not occur alone, but involves also other elements, such as cultural, autonymic and ethnonymic identities. The Lamy-Pool Identity Loss Model is invoked, so as to determine the extent to which Ikalanga has maintained all its identity features. The study is based on findings from a set of data collected from north-eastern Botswana. The study important, as demonstrates how a minority language can resist language marginalization, endangerment or shift, when certain factors are present.

Keywords: language vitality, language marginalization, multilingualism, language attitudes, identity features

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