Volume 29, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0172-8865
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9730
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This paper looks at language choice and use in South African SMS communication (texting) among bilingual (isiXhosa / English-speaking) users. Although English is the preferred language for most of the 22 participants (aged between 18 and 27), SMSes also create a forum for isiXhosa literacy (either in isiXhosa messages or in mixed English-isiXhosa messages). The English-language SMSes produced by these bilingual speakers share many of the features which have been reported for English SMS communication internationally (abbreviations, paralinguistic restitutions, non-standard spellings), and provide evidence for what one might call a global English SMS standard. At the same time, however, their SMSes also contain local linguistic features and, in particular, local, cultural content. The isiXhosa messages differ markedly from the writers’ English-language messages in that they contain no abbreviated material, non-standard spellings or paralinguistic restitutions and thus violate the sociolinguistic maxims of SMS / texting as postulated by Thurlow (2003). These bilingual writers thus communicate in the electronic medium using two different languages as well as two, non-overlapping sets of sociolinguistic norms.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): code-mixing / switching; English; isiXhosa; language choice; SMS; South Africa
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