Afrikaans. Where it came from. This may or may not be a surprise. It's not black or white

2015-08-20 16:14

Those of you, who know me, will know two things: I can smell nonsense a mile away and, if you're the one presenting an argument, you had better bring facts. I work in an environment where, if I don't get all the facts and present them clearly, people lose their jobs. A twisted fact can determine whether someone's life changes forever. I am an “Engelsman” through and through and learnt to speak Afrikaans when I married an Afrikaans woman in 2007, and living in Kroonstad.

So, enter Conrad Koch with these two beauties.


"True, but u realize that most Afrikaans

speakers are black? The language

was invented by black people."


"Dude, I have an MA in anthropology.

You have Wikipedia. Afrikaans is a

black language u stole."

I did try and engage him, because he may possibly be right and because I have an enquiring mind. However, I was met with an insult being called a "soldier boy". For someone with a Master’s degree he sure doesn't know logic and argument construction. I was really looking forward to constructive learning in this matter, but due to his immaturity, I decided to investigate the matter myself. It is a fact that whites are not the majority of afrikaans speakers in South Africa.

Let's start from the beginning. We all know the story of the Dutch East India Company and I won't go into that now. Suffice it to mention that these colonisers spoke the Dutch language. Dutch has many dialects and Afrikaans is recognised and published as a mutually intelligible daughter language[1] in that it evolved from many Cape Dutch dialects. [2]

Apart from Dutch being spoken, and with many different cultures being concentrated in one area in the Cape, influences from other cultures started to influence and mix with a Dutch vernacular from South Holland[3]. This language was not called Afrikaans, but became known as Kaaps-Hollandsch. Creolisation occurred. In a sociological context, the Collins English dictionary describes Creolisation as “the process of assimilation in which neighbouring cultures share certain features to form a new distinct culture".

This happened varying extents in the different cultures that were present in the Cape at the time. Influences such as, isiXhosa, Malay, Portuguese, French, South African English and even Arabic. Examples of this can be seen in words like piesang and sosatie (Malay), eina, gogga, kwagga, aitsa (from the Nama languages of the Khoi and San people). Arabic and Islam, had a very big roll and religious standardisation, was used as a way to unite the Muslim community and to teach them the ways of Islam. A written form of vehicular called Kitaap-Hollandsch [4]. was a written form of “street Dutch”, a vernacular language used by slaves, workers and lower class people, but also used by everyone else to communicate. This language, also known as "kitchen Dutch", when written in Arabic calligraphy, or jawa script, is what standardised the method of teaching Islam to the community, who's religion was unbanned in 1804.

Abu Bakr Effendi also compiled his Arabic/Afrikaans Islamic instruction book "Bayan-al-Din" between 1862 and 1869, although this was only published and printed in 1877. Although there is a pamphlet written in 1884 by A.B Effeminate shown below.

A pamphlet written in Arabic script, in a form of written Afrikaans. Written by Effendi in 1884.


?? ?? ???????? ?????? ?? ???????? ?????? ???? ????? ?? ????????? ????? ????? ???? ???? ?????? ???????? ??????

How it sounds and is said in Kaap-Holandsch-

“En die konungskap is by die hoege Allah ta`ala en waarlik Allah ta`ala is baas vir al die iets.”

(A sample of Arabic Afrikaans, quoting from the Qur’an – Surat )

There was no standardisation of the language that was used and spoken by many people in the Cape. Around the time Abu Bakr Effendi was writing the Bayan-al-Din, a man called Arnoldus Pannevis, observed that most of the South Africans from Dutch descent could not speak Dutch, their original mother tongue, like they used to. And in 1874 in his journal de Zuid-Afrikaan (South African Journal) under the title "Is die Afferkaans wesenlijk een taal?” (Is Afrikaans an actual language?), he wrote down his thoughts on the matter. The first standardised Afrikaans grammars and dictionaries were published in 1875 by the Genootskap vir Regte Afrikaners. From 15 January 1876 the society published a journal in Afrikaans called Die Afrikaanse Patriot ("The Afrikaans Patriot")

Page 1 bares resemblance to Afrikaans as we know it, and is different to the Arabic Afrikaans I've shown above.

Here is an extract:

An interesting read. This Newspaper is now known as Paarl news.

Afrikaans developed out of a need to communicate effectively, and out of a rich cultural melting pot that was the Cape of Good Hope. Walking around the City of Cape Town today, this history has been lost, but remains a part of the language of Afrikaans, we still use it when we buy a piesang or a rootie, say "eina die gogga het my gebyt" or "die man is ‘n fundi", a few examples of the result of the influence that many cultures had on the Dutch language, which still comprises 90-95% of the Afrikaans language [5]

It is an undeniable fact that Afrikaans has its base in Dutch. It is also undeniable that slaves, who were brought to the Cape, played a massive role in the development of Afrikaans. But, to make a claim that it was a "language invented by black people and stole by the whites" is wrong and twisting facts and history in order to cause racial division, something that Koch seems to thrive on, it is not a black language it is not a white language, but one that rose out of the need we all share, to associate with others. I took a step to learn instead. I hope you have learned something, too! If you find this as interesting as I do, or know something I don't, please tweet me @tim_meh87 I'd really love to hear from you. But save the racism and insults.

Oh, and Conrad Koch, having a Master’s degree with a thesis on "the ways in which the employees in the head offices of two major South African banks engaged in informal communication, particularly gossip and humour" does not make you an authority on linguistics. Throwing that in people's faces only shows that you had the white privilege of being able to afford a tertiary education. One cannot help but  wonder what you learnt about argument construction whilst compiling your thesis?

[1] Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch; see Booij 1995,

p. 2, Jansen,Schreuder & Neijt 2007, p. 5, Mennen, Levelt &

Gerrits 2006, p. 1, Booij 2003, p. 4, Hiskens, Auer & Kerswill

2005, p. 19, Heeringa & de Wet 2007, pp. 1,3, 5.

[2] Afrikaans is rooted in 17th century dialects of Dutch; see Holm

1989, p. 338, Geerts & Clyne 1992, p. 71, Mesthrie 1995, p. 214,

Niesler, Louw & Roux 2005, p.459.

[3] J. A. Heese (1971). Die herkoms van die Afrikaner, 1657–1867 [The origin of the Afrikaner] (in Afrikaans). Cape Town: A. A. Balkema. See The origin of Afrikaans pronunciation: a comparison to west Germanic languages and Dutch dialects - Wilbert Heeringa, Febe de Wet (2007)

[4] David's 2011 18-19

[5] Mesthrie,R(02)Language in South Africa.Cambridge University Press. p205

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