The politics of multilingualism in South Africa

Lloyd Hill (Stellenbosch University)

This research project will combine a theoretical exploration of the concept of ‘multilingualism’ with an empirical study of how this concept has been used and measured in post-apartheid South Africa. The intention is to provide a substantive and methodological contribution to the process of thinking about language as a dimension of super-diversity. The three broad objectives will therefore be: to trace the historical development of the concept ‘multilingualism’ and to summarize the main contending theoretical approaches associated with research on multilingualism; to summarize the development of a post-1994 discourse on multilingualism in South Africa, highlighting problems associated with the politicization of the concept; and to summarize and critique various attempts to measure multilingualism in South Africa and to explore the extent to which a better theoretical elaboration of the concept may improve attempts to measure it.