Linguistic and cultural hybridity is our identity

Author: Deon du Plessis (SADiLaR English Researcher) 

“I believe that linguistic and cultural hybridity is our identity.”[1]

The concept of naturalisation is applied to people who immigrate and integrate into a new country to the extent that they are granted citizenship.[2] Nkonko Kamwangamalu uses this framework to describe how (South) African English has been naturalised, in a manner of speaking; it has come to “bear the burden of the speakers’ cultural experience” and acts as a “link language between speakers of various languages”.[3]

This quality of being a link language is expressed through English bonding together speakers who are ethnically or linguistically diverse[4] and may not have another medium of communication in common.

The depth of this relationship may be seen where:[5]

  • indigenous words and symbolism are borrowed into English,
  • local notions of kinship are expressed through English, where this would not previously have been possible, by creating new terms to express such notions,
  • idioms and expressions get carried over into English,
  • existing English words get special, new meanings, and
  • specific, African turns of phrase are entrenched in the language.

English has been naturalised in South Africa within this framework. We need to think about not seeing it as a competitor to its new compatriots, and instead think how it can exist alongside those compatriots: the indigenous languages of our land.[6]

Note: This post summarises certain aspects of prof. Nkonko M. Kamwangamalu’s (2019) paper titled English as a naturalized African language, which was offered in honour of Braj Kachru in a special issue of the journal World Englishes.


[1] Kachru, Braj B. 1998. English as an Asian language. Links and Letters, 5: 105.

[2] Kamwangamalu, Nkonko M. 2019. English as a naturalized African language. World Englishes, 38: p. 116.

[3] Ibid.: p. 115; italicisation added.

[4] Ibid.: p. 117.

[5] Ibid.: p. 119-123

[6] Ibid.: p. 124