Abstract

Urban male youth “language” spoken in many townships in South Africa is a multimodal performance register through which status is negotiated and identities are expressed. Locally dominant languages act as a grammatical base into which a slang lexicon is inserted, accompanied by distinctive patterns of intonation and gesture. Variation reflecting social level, ranging from styles close to urban varieties of Bantu languages to metaphorically dense styles exhibiting features of antilanguages, and associated with a streetwise urban identity, is illustrated on the basis of naturally occurring videotaped conversations. Creative speakers coin new expressions that then spread based on the speakers’ linguistic skill and social status. Implications of these findings for the study of African urban youth languages are discussed.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6527
Print ISSN
0003-5483
Pages
pp. 356-388
Launched on MUSE
2015-11-06
Open Access
No
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