Cape Flats English

Cape Flats English orignated in working class neighbourhoods in inner-city Cape Town. However, as a result of Apartheid social engineering, most of its speakers now live far from the city centre in a number of adjoining areas collectively known as “The Cape Flats” (referring to a large, flat, sandy expanse bordered by the mountain ranges and the sea). Towards the end of the 18th century, South Africa was settled by English speakers, so non-standard dialects of English spoken in Cape Town would have had an important role in shaping the early form of Cape Flats English. Variation reflects regional and class differences, as well as the level of schooling and whether schooling took place in predominantly coloured schools or in schools with a more mixed intake. In South Africa, attitudes towards English are ambivalent: is is seen as a powerful means of upward mobility and as a sign of urban sophistication, but also as a sign of snobbery and the abandoning of roots. Cape Flats English does not attract the strongly positive or the strongly negative versions of these attitudes. Rather, it seems to be perceived as a code which shows that its speakers are educated but still rooted in their communities.

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