Chapter 11. Gendered linguistic choices among isiZulu-speaking women in contemporary South Africa

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This paper addresses how young Zulu women choose two different isiZulu varieties, isiTsotsi and isiHlonipho, in order to construct ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ femininities in South Africa. Based on semi-ethnographic data gathered over a period of six years (2004–2010), the paper explores how isiZulu-speaking females make use of the two linguistic varieties and what significance and implications these choices have in terms of gender dynamics. It is argued that speaking isiTsotsi signals linguistically that ‘traditional’ Zulu femininity is rejected while making use of an isiHlonipho lexicon endorses this very femininity. The research also highlights the context-dependent nature of linguistic gender constructions and contributes to the study of African femininities.


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