South African English

South African English

Linguists have given names to the three main pronunciation groups in South African English: Cultivated, General and Broad.

Cultivated South African English speakers have an accent closest to British RP. It is non rhotic and retains the dipthongs of English. In Cape Town this accent is spoken by those descended from British settlers, such as me. My German name “Rolf Weimar” comes from my father. My mother’s family comes from Britain. Her maiden name comes from Scotland, but one of her grandfather’s was Irish.

General South African English speakers are those who have had much more contact and been more influenced by Afrikaans and Xhosa speakers. Their dipthongs have become monophthongised and many of the vowels have changed. Most Common speakers are native English speaker, although some Afrikaans speakers speak with this accent because of growing up in Cape Town and having extensive contact with native English speakers.

Broad South African English speakers are those that either are native Afrikaans or Xhosa speakers, live in an area with a lot of Afrikaans or Xhosa speakers, or have parents that are native Afrikaans and Xhosa speakers. If someone is a second or third language speaker of English, it is most likely they will have this accent.

Non native speakers of English

Afrikaans speakers and people of mixed race heritage (these people called themselves “Coloured” in South Africa) roll their R’s in South African English. This is represented by IPA [r].

Xhosa and other native speakers of African languages round out the complexity of English vowels.

Government [ɡʌvənˌmənt] becomes [gavament] in their accent.

I like bread
Cultivated South African English: [aɪ laɪk bɹɛːd] (sometimes [d] and [t] become tapped [ɾ])
General South African English: [a: la:k bɹɛːd]
Broad South African English: [a: la:k bred]

I live in Cape Town which is the oldest city in South Africa. It is perhaps not surprising then that pronunciations vary a lot in Cape Town. There are three main languages spoken in Cape Town: English, Afrikaans and Xhosa.

Native English speakers are mostly found in southern Cape Town. Afrikaans speakers are concentrated in the north. Cape Town has the largest percentage of native English speakers in the whole country with 67.7% followed by Afrikaans at 22.5% and Xhosa at 2.7%. The city with the next highest percentage of native English speakers is Durban with 49.8% followed by Port Elizabeth with 33.2%

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