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

Identity construction through phonetic crossing among young Capetonian gang members

Nadine Chariatte
Issued Date: 4 Jun 2016


Uncountable gangs operate in post-Apartheid South Africa, particularly in greater Cape Town, competing over turf and controlling the drug trade. Consequently, gang violence is rife in Western Cape and especially widespread in urban areas. In this paper young Capetonians’ narratives of gang violence are analyzed. In the narratives of attacks on Black or White South Africans by Coloured gang members, the Coloured narrators make use of their victims’ varieties of English, more precisely, of phonetic features. Hence, the aggressors do language crossing towards their targets when narrating their feats. Rampton (1995a:485) considers language crossing a ‘code alternation by people who are not accepted members of the group associated with the second language that they are using (code switching into varieties that are not generally thought to belong to them)’. This switching involves a transgression of social or ethnic boundaries that allows the young gangsters to construct, negotiate, uphold and manage their social identities, as language still functions as an utterly important identity marker in post-Apartheid South Africa.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.v10i1-2.27930


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