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Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication

Ed. by Piller, Ingrid

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Volume 29, Issue 3-4


Imbodela zamakhumsha – Reflections on standardization and destandardization

Ana Deumert
  • Corresponding author
  • Associate Professor and Head of the Linguistics Section at the University of Cape Town.
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Published Online: 2011-01-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mult.2010.012


While the concept of standardization is well-established in linguistics, destandardization is a more recent addition to linguistic terminology. Drawing on historiographic and ethnographic data from isiXhosa, one of South Africa's indigenous languages, this paper reflects on both of these concepts. Standardization is discussed as a modernist grand narrative whose continued application to linguistic thinking has outlived its usefulness, and standard languages as such (hegemonoc, prescriptive, etc.) might be assigned to Beck's (Theory, Culture & Society 19: 17–44, 2002) zombie categories of modernity. Discussing the example of brandy-talk in isiXhosa from the perspective of ethnographic lexicography (Silverstein, Annual Review of Anthropology 35: 481–496, 2006), the paper argues for a linguistic perspective which focuses on the articulation and reproduction of social meaning as a central mechanism in the formation of linguistic conventions or ways of speaking. It advocates a recognition of the practices of speakers as they draw on standard and non-standard forms, as well as their associated meanings and ideologies (first/second order indexicality), in positioning themselves as social beings with identities, histories, aspirations, and ideological stances in everyday talk.

Keywords:: standardization; destandardization; social meaning; isiXhosa; ethnographic lexicography

About the article

Address for correspondence: Department of English Language and Literature, Linguistics Section University of Cape Town, 7700 Rondebosch, South Africa. e-mail:

Published Online: 2011-01-14

Published in Print: 2010-11-01

Citation Information: Multilingua - Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication, Volume 29, Issue 3-4, Pages 243–264, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mult.2010.012.

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