Language Related Rural-Urban Differences in South Africa

  • Isaac J. van der Merwe University of Stellenbosch
Keywords: Language groups, language distribution, language profiles, rural urban convergence


Literature has traditionally portrayed urban and rural environments as separate entities, each with a range of distinctive social, economic and institutional characteristics. The question arises, however, whether modem technology and the associated interactive lifestyles have not already narrowed rural and urban physical distance to such an extent that social distances are also fading. The answer to this question in the new South Africa has specific implications for administrative systems and development needs in urban and rural areas respectively. The general objective of this paper is therefore to establish the nature and magnitude of rural urban convergence in South Africa. In the post-apartheid South Africa, language constitutes an appropriate measure of 'rural' and 'urban' ethnic character. Language is a significant marker of social structuring and should be recognized as such in addressing the development needs of urban and rural communities more effectively. The evidence presented in this paper shows that the western-oriented Afrikaans speakers experiencing an advanced technology and a modem lifestyle, have progressed much further along the continuum to rural-urban convergence than Zulu speakers, displaying a typically developing African profile. The preliminary results of this study have various academic and practical implications for Geography and public policy.


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