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Speaking with a forked tongue about multilingualism in the language policy of a South African university

  • Bassey E. AntiaEmail author
  • Chanel van der Merwe
Original Paper

Abstract

As part of a broader student campaign for ‘free decolonized education’, protests over language policies at select South African universities between 2015 and 2016 belied widespread positive appraisals of these policies, and revealed what is possibly an internal contradiction of the campaign. The discourse prior to the protests (e.g. “excellent language policies but problematic implementation”), during the protests (e.g. silence over the role of indigenous African languages in the “Afrikaans must fall” versus “Afrikaans must stay” contestations), and after the protests (e.g. English becoming a primary medium in some institutional policy reviews) warrant attention to critical literacy in language policy scholarship. Based on a theoretical account of speaking with a forked tongue, this article analyzes the language policy text of one South African university. The analysis suggests, simultaneously, why similar policies have tended to be positively appraised, why students’ calls for policy revisions were justified, but why the changes clamoured for arguably amount to complicity in self-harm.

Keywords

Language policy Systemic functional linguistics Tactical polyvalence University of the Western Cape South African higher education Multilingualism 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge suggestions made by anonymous reviewers as well as funding from the South African National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Paul Duncan and Lynn Mafofo are also thanked for comments on parts of the paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of the Western CapeBellvilleSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Applied Language StudiesNelson Mandela UniversityPort ElizabethSouth Africa

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