Ryan Szpiech, Joshua Shapero, Andries W. Coetzee, Lorenzo García-Amaya, Paulina Alberto, Victoria Langland, Ellie Johandes, Nicholas Henriksen
September 18, 2020
Chubut Province, in Patagonia, Argentina, is home to a group of Afrikaans-speaking Boers, descendants of those who–starting in 1902–came to Argentina from the region of present-day South Africa. Although little Afrikaans is spoken among fourth- and fifth-generation community members, many in the third generation (60 years and older) still maintain the language. According to Joshua Fishman’s model of generational language shift, the Boers’ Afrikaans should have been largely diluted by the third generation; older community members today should have little functional knowledge of the language, and their children and grandchildren none. The goal of this paper is to explore the persistence of bilingualism in the Argentine Boer community and explain why the changes normally associated with the third generation of immigrants are only now being seen in the fourth and fifth generations. On the basis of bilingual interviews with living community members, we argue that the community’s attitude toward Afrikaans as a language of group identity, as well as the relative isolation of the community in rural Patagonia in the first half of the 20th century, were both decisive factors in delaying the process of linguistic assimilation. Only in the middle of the 20th century, when the community came into greater contact with Argentine society as a result of modernization and schooling in the region, did the process of linguistic integration begin in a measurable way.