32. Multilingualism in Southern Africa

  1. Tej K. Bhatia and
  2. William C. Ritchie
  1. Nkonko M. Kamwangamalu

Published Online: 3 OCT 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118332382.ch32

The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism, Second Edition

The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism, Second Edition

How to Cite

Kamwangamalu, N. M. (2012) Multilingualism in Southern Africa, in The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism, Second Edition (eds T. K. Bhatia and W. C. Ritchie), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118332382.ch32

Editor Information

  1. Syracuse University, USA

Author Information

  1. Howard University, Washington, DC, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 3 OCT 2012
  2. Published Print: 7 NOV 2012

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781444334906

Online ISBN: 9781118332382



  • language policy failure;
  • language shift;
  • language status;
  • language use;
  • multilingualism;
  • post-apartheid South Africa;
  • Southern Africa


The chapter provides an overview of multilingualism in Southern Africa. In particular, this chapter describes the lives of the indigenous languages vis-à-vis former colonial languages that have currency in the region, namely English and Portuguese, with a focus on issues in language status, language policy and language use especially in the higher domains such as the educational system, the media and the government and administration. The first part of the chapter provides a broader overview of these issues in the region, and the second discusses them in the context of South Africa, arguably the only sociolinguistic area in Southern Africa where language activists and language professionals keep the debate over these issues alive focusing on post-apartheid South Africa. It also looks at the issue of language shift and language death against the backdrop of the hegemony and spread of English in the region, with a focus on South Africa.