Volume 8, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0920-9034
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9870
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The social meaning of Fanakalo (F) and the social motivation for using it in South Africa are the focus of this article. Ethnographic evidence assembled from a range of written sources reveals that largely unfavorable connotations are associated with F. On the strength of this data, the contextual characteristics of the use of F as an unmarked (or preferred) choice are described. It is shown that F is restricted to work (that is, to non-affective domains) and is used in interactions where there is an asymmetrical role and power relationship between the participants (best described as master-servant). Furthermore, F is negatively evaluated by Blacks, who are always the less powerful participants.Also considered is oral ethnographic data, in the form of spontaneous, naturally-occurring interpersonal exchanges and self-reports on why people use F. Examination of this data shows that in marked settings, F is exploited as a conversational resource between South Africans, whether Black or White. It is shown that in marked settings F is a marker of solidarity, whereas in unmarked settings use of the language connotes power and domination.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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