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%

The cynic and the hound

The Cynics were a group who practised a philosophy of living in virtue and in harmony with nature. Their names comes from the fact that the first cynic taught at a place called the Cynosarges which means the “Place of the White Dog”. But “dog” quickly became an insult used by people to criticise their way of life.

The word “cynic” in English comes from the Ancient Greek word κυνικός (kunikós) which means “dog-like”. κῠ́ων (kúōn) is the Ancient Greek word for “dog” and is actually cognate with the English word “hound”. So “cynic” and “hound” are actually related 🙂

Learn Northern Sami with Steve the vagabond Part 3

viehkat – to run
Mun viegan – I run
Don viegat – You (s) run
Son viehká – He/she runs
Moai vihke – We (two) run
Doai viehkabeahtti – You (two) run
Soai viehkaba – They (two) run
Mii viehkat – We run
Dii viehkabehtet – You (plural) run
Sii vihket – They run

čiehkat – to hide
Mun čiegan – I hide
Don čiegat – You (s) hide
Son čiehká – He/she hides
Moai čihke – We (two) hide
Doai čiehkabeahtti – You (two) hide
Soai čiehkaba – They (two) hide
Mii čiehkat – We hide
Dii čiehkabehtet – You (plural) hide
Sii čihket – They hide

váldit – to take
Mun válddán – I take
Don válddát – You (s) take
Son váldá – He/she takes
Moai válde – We (two) take
Doai váldibeahtti – You (two) take
Soai váldiba – They (two) take
Mii váldit – We take
Dii váldibehtet – You (plural) take
Sii váldet – They take

rundit – to work, toil
Mun runddán – I work
Don runddát – You (s) work
Son rundá – He/she works
Moai runde – We (two) work
Doai rundibeahtti – You (two) work
Soai rundiba – They (two) work
Mii rundit – We work
Dii rundibehtet – You (plural) work
Sii rundet – They work

Get complete lessons for Northern Sami at Steve the vagabond on Patreon

Learn Northern Sami with Steve the vagabond Part 2

The letter as used in Northern Sami followed by the IPA
letter for that sound. After this is an English description
of the sound.
A a – /ɑ/ “au” in British English “laugh”
Á á – /a/ “ah”
B b – /b/ “b” in “bed”
C c – /ts/ “ts” in “cats”
Č č – /tʃ/ “ch” in “check”
D d – /d/ “d” in “dog”
Đ đ – /ð/ “th” in “this”
E e – /e/ “e” in “weigh”
F f – /f/ “f” in “fish”
G g – /g/ “g” in “good”
H h – /h/ “h” in “hot”
I i – /i/ “e” in “me”, /j/ after a vowel, “y” in “yes”
J j – /j/ “y” in “yes”
K k – /k/ “c” in “cat”
L l – /l/ “l” in “lake”
M m – /m/ “m” in “man”
N n – /n/ “n” in “nut”
Ŋ ŋ – /ŋ/ “ng” in “sing”
O o – /o/ “o” in “or”
P p – /p/ “p” in “pet”
S s – /s/ “s” in “sit”
Š š – /ʃ/ “sh” in “ship”
T t – /t/ “t” in “tall”
Ŧ ŧ – /θ/ “th” in “thatch”
U u – /u/ “o” in “do”
V v – /v/ “v” in “van”
Z z – /dz/ “ds” in “raids”
Ž ž – /dʒ/ “j” in “joy”

The following are called dipthongs because they contain two vowel sounds pronounced in the same time as a single vowel sound
ie – /ie/ “ee” followed by “eh”
oa – /oɑ/ “oh” followed by “au” in British English “laugh”
uo – /uo/ “oo” followed by the “o” in “or”
When the letter “h” comes between a vowel and consonant, it does not represent the sound /h/ (as in “hat”) but rather represent a very breathy sound, like someone just breathing out and not completing the “h” sound. In IPA this is represented as /ʰ/, for instance in eahket /æʰket/

Get complete lessons for Northern Sami at Steve the vagabond on Patreon

Learn Northern Sami with Steve the vagabond Part 1

Phrases in Northern Sami
The IPA transcription appears after the phrase

Buorre iđit /buorːe iðit/ – Good morning
Buorre eahket /buorːe æʰːket/ – Good evening
Bures /bures/ – Hello
Mo dat manná? /mo dɑt mɑnːa/ – How are you?
Dat manná bures, giitu /dɑt mɑnːa bures giːtu/ – Fine, thank you
Mii du namma lea? /miː du nɑmːɑ læ/ – What is your name?
Mu namma lea ___ /mu nɑmːɑ læ/ – My name is ___
Juo /juə/ – Yes
A-a /ɑʔɑ/, Ii /iː/ – No
Mun in huma davvisámegiela /mun in humɑ dɑvːisaːmegielɑ/ – I can’t speak Northern Sami
Mun in ádde /mun in adːə/ – I don’t understand
Hupmago oktage dáppe eaŋgalsgiela? /hupmɑgo oktɑge dapːe æŋgɑlsgielɑ/ – Is there someone here who speaks English?
Gos don leat eret? /gos don læt eret/ – Where are you from?
Mun lean ___ eret /mun læn eret/ – I am from ___

Get complete lessons for Northern Sami at Steve the vagabond on Patreon

Your language is part of who you are

I hope that one day people will treat the language someone speaks like they do characteristics like eye colour or height. The more I learn  about languages the more I realise that language is fundamentally human. The language someone speaks natively says something about who they  are. Language is brought to a place by those who speak it. You only speak the language you speak because someone brought the language to  your area and those around you spoke it while you were growing up.

Because language is such an ever present part of our lives, things can get very messy. People look down on those who speak certain languages  because of associations they have with the group that speaks that language. The only way around this is to make people aware of what is  actually happening out in the world and to correct any misinformation or lack of knowledge people have. I can’t fix what people don’t know about history or politics or mathematics. But I can teach people about language.

One thing I know for sure. You should never be ashamed of the language you speak. Your language is the result of centuries and centuries of  evolution and change performed by ordinary people. Your language is an organism. It is like the fauna and flora of the world. It developed naturally. It is something to be proud of. Your language is part of who you are.

Each language carries in it the thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams of its people. Each time we lose a language, we lose an expression of what it means to be human. I always liked language before, but I see even more clearly now how marvellous and special language is.

Language is an inextricable part of culture. People know the language they know because of the culture they live in. A part of the reason languages die is because they stop being spoken by native speakers and thus don’t get passed on to future generations. Because language is a part of culture, cultural forces affect languages. If a culture decides that their language is no longer worth learning, it will probably disappear.

Maybe in a small way I can change that just by saying: Your language matters. Never be ashamed of your language. Your language is beautiful, messy, chaotic and wonderful. It is part of who you are and it is worth preserving.

“tch” in English

A lot (but not all) words in English that end on “tch” come from the ancestor of English which linguists call Proto Germanic. All Germanic languages come from Proto Germanic. Cognate means that the word shares an origin with a word in another Germanic language

ċ in Old English was pronounced like Modern English “ch”

fetch from Old English feċċan, cognate with Dutch vatten and German fassen
ditch from Old English dīċ, cognate with Dutch dijk and German Teich
watch from Old English wæċċan, cognate with Dutch waken and German wachen
stretch from Old English streċċan, cognate with Dutch strekken and German strecken
stitch from Old English stiċe, cognate with Dutch steek and German Stich
thatch from Old English þæċ, cognate with Dutch dak and German Dach

There are many more. This is just to give you an idea of what kind of words are out there. If they end on “tch”, they might be Germanic 🙂

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Each part is easy to follow and will build on the parts before. No matter how good or bad you think you are at languages, you will be able to follow this series and fulfill your dream of learning languages.

The first part introduces the language and gives and overview of its place in the world and some fun facts about it. The first part ends with some sample phrases in the language. The second part explores the verbs of the language in an easy to follow format.

Steve the vagabond brings languages to you in an easy to read format and offers new lessons every week. You can download one or all of the currently available lessons. It’s completely up to you. Discover a new way to learn languages with Steve the vagabond.

Help define the style of Silly Linguistics and Steve the vagabond

I am planning a graphical overhaul of Silly Linguistics and Steve the vagabond and silly linguist. I would like to expand the brand and bring comics and all sorts of other language fun to people all over the world. I have previously done a call out for illustrators but I wanted to do it again because I want the results to be perfect. I have already had lots of submissions and they are awesome.

But I want to see what is out there. Maybe there is yet a style that will be even better for the page.

My goal is to have a bunch of illustrations of Steve the vagabond (the character in the profile picture of this page) that I can use to add a bit of character to posts I make for the page. I want people to associate the character with language, learning and fun.

I got the idea from this set of pictures

I would like a set of Steve the vagabond drawings which I can use to build up the character of Steve the vagabond a bit. I want angry, happy, sad, joyful and energetic pictures of him in cartoony style which I can use on my posts.

Send submissions as messages to the page or email me at

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