As far as the eye can see: Urban bias in South African linguistic research
Journal: Sociolinguistic Studies
Urban bias remains a debated topic in South Africa in many spheres of society. Due to the logic of apartheid, ‘rural’ came to mean ‘black’; or in post-apartheid-speak ‘previously disadvantaged’. Up to today, the effects of long-term structural and systematic disadvantaging are quite tangible in the country. Though in parts also applicable to urban settings, poverty, insufficient infrastructure and lack of access are largely foremost still a problem of the rural – and mostly black – population. These structural imbalances are purported through a number of social fields including academia. Often, studies are conducted where access and conveniences are close and risks impeding the successful completion of research projects are low. While the tendency to consider feasibility in research is not per se questionable, the total body of research projects and results might foreground a distorted reflection of South Africa’s sociolinguistic landscape. Binary categories of urban/rural, however, carry a certain bias within themselves and are thus not comfortably fitting in a South African context but call for deconstruction. On this background, the chapter presents a critical review of 135 scholarly articles (2010–2017) from the eminent linguistic journal Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies examined for traces of urban bias in the research set up and weighs the results in the light of the current socio-political situation in South Africa.
Author: Irina Turner
Bachmann-Medick, D. (29 March 2010) Cultural turns, version: 1.0. Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, Retrieved 28 April 2018 from http://docupedia.de/zg/Cultural_Turns?oldid=75507
Beyer, K. (2014) Urban language research in South Africa: achievements and challenges. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 32 (2): 247--254.
Blommaert, J. and Rampton, B. (2011) Language and superdiversity. Diversities 13(2): 1--21.
Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology (3): 77--101.
Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2013) Successful Qualitative Research: A Practical Guide for Beginners. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi: SAGE.
Bristowe, A., Oostendorp, M. and Anthonissen, C. (2014) Language and youth identity in a multilingual setting: a multimodal repertoire approach. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 32(2): 229--245.
Cockcroft, K. and Alloway, T. (2012) Phonological awareness and working memory: comparisons between South African and British children. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 30(1): 13--24.
Deumert, A. (2013) Xhosa in town (revisited) – space, place and language. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 2013 (222): 51--75.
Dixon, J. and Mcmichael, P. (2015) Revisiting the ‘urban bias’ and its relationship to food security. In Dixon, J. Colin D. Butler, C.D. and Capon, A.G. (eds.): Health of People, Places and Planet (Reflections based on Tony McMichael’s four decades of contribution to epidemiological understanding), 313--330: ANU Press.
Dinkelman, T. and Pirouz F. (2002) Individual, household and regional determinants of labour force attachment in South Africa. South African Journal of Economics 70 (5): 865--891.
Dowling, T. and Gowlett, D. (2016) Problems in the acquisition of noun class 11 among Xhosa children. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 34(4): 289--309.
Dyers, C., and Davids, G. (2015) Post-modern ‘languagers’: the effects of texting by university students on three South African languages. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 33 (1): 21--30.
Eckert, P. (2012) Three waves of variation study: the emergence of meaning in the study of sociolinguistics variation. Annual Review of Anthropology 41: 87--100.
Fugard, A. J.B. and Potts, H.W.W. (2015) supporting thinking on sample sizes for thematic analyses: a quantitative tool. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 18 (6): 669--684.
Ghouwa, I. and Koch, E. (2012) Investigating item and construct bias in an English verbal analogies scale. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 30 (3): 325--338.
Gravett, W. H. (2017) The myth of objectivity: implicit racial bias and the law (part 1). Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal 20: 1--25.
Gumede, W. (4 April 2016) The rural vs urban development bias in Africa. Democracy Works. Retrieved 28 April 2018 from
Gunnink, H. (2014) The grammatical structure of Sowetan tsotsitaal. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 32(2): 161--171.
Guzula, X., McKinney C. and Robyn, T. (2016) Languaging-for-learning: legitimising translanguaging and enabling multimodal practices in third spaces. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 34 (3): 211--226.
Hendricks, F. (2001) Land policies and democracy in South Africa. In Coetzee, J.G., Hendricks, F. and Wood, G. (eds): Development: Theory, Policy, and Practice, 289--316. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
Hollington, A., and Nassenstein, N. (2015) Youth language practices in Africa as creative manifestations of fluid repertoires and markers of speakers' social identity. In Hollington, A. and Nassenstein, N. (eds): Youth Language Practices in Africa and Beyond, 1--22. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.
Holt, A. (2011) Structural processes of reform as an influence on advertising. In Olorunnisola, A. and Tomaselli, K.G. (eds): Political Economy of Media Transformation in South Africa 81--117. Cresskill: Hampton.
HSRC- Human Sciences Research Council (2018) What we do. Retrieved 28 April 2018 from http://www.hsrc.ac.za/en/about/what-we-do
Hurst, E. (2017) Rural/urban dichotomies and youth languages. In Ebongue, E. and Hurst, E. (eds): Sociolinguistics in African Contexts. Perspectives and Challenges 209--224. Cham: Springer.
Kajee, L. and Balfour, R. (2011) Students’ access to digital literacy at a South African university: privilege and marginalisation. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 29(2): 187--196.
Kay, C. (2009) Development strategies and rural development: exploring synergies, eradicating poverty. The Journal of Peasant Studies 36(1): 103--137.
Kießling, R. and Mous, M. (2004) Urban youth languages in Africa. Anthropological Linguistics: 303--341.
Labov, W. (1972) Language in the Inner City. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Lipton, M. (1977) Why Poor People Stay Poor: A Study of Urban Bias in World Development. London: Temple Smith.
Makalela, L. (2014) Teaching indigenous African languages to speakers of other African languages: The effects of translanguaging for multilingual development. In Hibbert, L (ed.) Multilingual Universities in South Africa. Reflecting Society in Higher Education 88 -- 104. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Maribe, T. and Brookes, H. (2014) Male youth talk in the construction of black lesbian identities. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 32 (2): 199--214.
Mesthrie, R., Chevalier, A. and McLachlan, K. (2015) A perception test for the deracialisation of middle class South African English. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 33(4): 391--409.
Milroy, J. and Milroy L. (1985) Linguistic change, social network and speaker innovation. Journal of Linguistics 21: 339--384.
Mbirimi-Hungwe, V. (2016) Translanguaging as a strategy for group work: summary writing as a measure for reading comprehension among university students. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 34(3): 24--249.
Mkhize, D. N. (2016a) Resources, mediators, and identities: home literacy practices of rural bilingual children. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 34 (1): 43--55.
Mkhize, D. N. (2016b) Mediating epistemic access through everyday language resources in an English language classroom. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 34(3): 227--240.
Motlhaka, H. A. and Makalela, L. (2016) Translanguaging in an academic writing class: implications for a dialogic pedagogy. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 34(3): 251--260.
Mudimbe, V. (1988) The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Retrieved 28 April 2018 from https://libcom.org/files/zz_v._y._mudimbe_the_invention_of_africa_gnosis_pbook4you_1.pdf
NIDS - National Income Dynamic Study. (2008) Retrieved on 10 April 2018 from http://www.nids.uct.ac.za/about/what-is-nids. University of Cape Town.
Olivier, J. (2011) Accommodating multilingualism in IT classrooms in the Free State province 1. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 29(2): 209--220.
O’Malley, Padraig. n.d. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). Retrieved on 25 April 2018 from https://omalley.nelsonmandela.org/omalley/index.php/site/q/03lv02039/04lv02103/05lv02120/06lv02126.htm
Paxton, M. and Tyam, N. (2010) Xhosalising English?: negotiating meaning and identity in Economics. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 28 (3): 247--257.
Pillay, V. and Yu, K. (2015) Multilingualism at South African universities: a quiet storm. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 33(4): 439--452.
Roth-Gordon, J. and Woronov, T.E. (2009) Youthful concerns: movement, belonging and modernity. Pragmatics 19(1): 129--143.
Rowland, S. (2007) Academic development: a site of creative doubt and contestation. International Journal for Academic Development 12 (1): 9--14.
Simango, R. S. (2011) When English meets isiXhosa in the clause: an exploration into the grammar of code-switching 1. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 29(2): 127--134.
Storch, A., Nassenstein, N., Hollington, A., Mietzner, A, and Traber, J. (eds) (2017) Normaliminalities. Artefacts from various souths and norths. The Mouth: Critical Studies on Language, Culture and Society. Retrieved 28 April 2018 from https://themouthjournal.com/issue-no-1/
Sulcas, G. and English, J. (2010) A case for focus on professional communication skills at senior undergraduate level in Engineering and the Built Environment. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 28(3): 219--226.
Taylor and Francis Online. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies. Retrieved on 25 April 2018 from
Thamaga-Chitja, J. M. and Mbatha, T. (2012) Enablers and barriers to multilingualism in South African university classrooms. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 30(3): 339--346.
South African Government (2006) National Spatial Development Perspective 2006. Retrieved on 27 April 2018 from: https://www.gov.za/documents/national-spatial-development-perspective-2006
Wissing, D. and Pienaar, W. (2014) Evaluating vowel normalisation procedures: a case study on Southern Sotho vowels. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 32(1): 97--111.
Wingfield, B., and Vaughan, K. (23.10.2017) money woes force South Africa to revisit how it rewards researchers. The Conversation. Retrieved on 27 April 2018 from https://theconversation.com/money-woes-force-south-africa-to-revisit-how-it-rewards-researchers-86151
Zimbalist, Z. (2011) Urban Bias Revisited: Urban and Rural Development in Post-Apartheid South Africa. [Master Thesis] Durban: University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal. Retrieved on 27 April 2018 from https://researchspace.ukzn.ac.za/xmlui/handle/10413/8646