Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 10, No 1-2 (2016)

Metaphor in South African tsotsitaal

Ellen Hurst
Issued Date: 4 Jun 2016


Halliday’s concept of ‘anti-language’ has been applied to a number of African Urban Youth Languages (AUYLs) in recent literature. Halliday described the concept of antilanguage as a language generated by an ‘anti-society’ which is set up as a conscious alternative to established societal norms. Anti-language, then, is a conscious alternative to the language of the wider society and it distinguishes itself primarily through relexicalization (the principle of same grammar, different vocabulary) and metaphor. Halliday states that in an anti-language, metaphor goes ‘all the way up and down the system’ – that an anti-society is a metaphorical variant of society, an anti-language is a metaphor for an everyday language, and the language itself employs metaphorical variants to distinguish it, including phonological metaphors, grammatical metaphors (morphological, lexical, and syntactic) and semantic metaphors. This article presents natural speech data from a multi-sited research project in South Africa, in order to analyze the use of metaphor in tsotsitaal – the South African AUYL used amongst peers in South Africa’s townships. The analysis considers how metaphor is used at three different levels – the level of lexical items; phrases; and social structure. Processes of innovation and creativity will be described, and the article will evaluate the use of the term anti-language to describe tsotsitaal (and, by implication, other AUYLs). The findings suggest that the term is a useful one to understand the metaphorical processes in AUYLs, but that it needs to be cautiously applied.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.v10i1-2.27922


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