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"I've been speaking Tsotsitaal all my life without knowing it": Towards a unified account of tsotsitaals in South Africa.

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Abstract

This chapter focuses on varieties that flourish in South African townships with names like <i>Tsotsitaal, Flaaitaal, Iscamtho, Gamtaal </i>etc. Some speakers and scholars argue that these are new languages arising out of urbanisation and underworld culture in multilingual settings. This chapter examines the extent of overlap in names and defining characteristics of these varieties. It concludes that we may possibly be dealing with just one phenomenon: essentially a set of lexical items associated with gang and prison culture at one end and that of youth culture at the other, which is attached to the syntax of previously existing languages. Evidence for this claim comes from unearthing a similar variety that uses English as its base language.

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