Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0920-9034
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9870
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This paper examines, and refutes, the currently most popular hypothesis concerning the origin of Fanagalo, namely, that it arose on the plantation fields of Natal among indentured East Indian migrants who arrived there from 1860 onwards. Can a pidgin be initiated by a group of migrants from differing linguistic backgrounds in a plantation situation, and still remain in widespread use without showing any substrate influences? If the Indian origin hypothesis is correct, this would indeed be the case: a "crystallized" southern African Pidgin, stable for about a hundred years, would have been created in the sugar plantations of Natal by migrant indentured Indian workers without any tangible influences from any of the five or so Indic and Dravidian languages involved. However, structural and lexical evidence indicates otherwise. Written sources (a first-hand account by an English settler from about 1905, and two published accounts by an English missionary) suggest that the use of Fanagalo in Natal predated the arrival of Indian immigrants by at least ten years. Regarding the origins of Fanagalo, one other viable alternative is examined — the Eastern Cape in the early 1800s. The conclusion is that the most likely site for Fanagalo's genesis was Natal in the mid-nineteenth century.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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