Spotlight on Mzansi's tsotsitaal

02 July 2013 - 02:52 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE
Community members cheer during a Pantsula dance competition on May 11, 2013 in Soweto, South Africa. Soweto hosted an informal dance-off competiton over the weekend to revive street dance.
Community members cheer during a Pantsula dance competition on May 11, 2013 in Soweto, South Africa. Soweto hosted an informal dance-off competiton over the weekend to revive street dance.
Image: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Mohau Mofokeng

"Yoh! You've got lekker shiners, my bru."

Though many South Africans will understand this sentence, to most of the rest of the world it would be unintelligible. But that might soon change.

Tsotsitaal will take centre stage at the first urban and youth language conference, hosted by the University of Cape Town this week.

Language experts from all over the world will meet for three days to discuss language variations, and one of the panels will discuss tsotsitaal.

Ellen Hurst, a lecturer at UCT's human education development unit, said the conference will "provide a forum in which the field can be further developed".

"African urban and youth language varieties provide striking examples of mixing, coinages, syntactic change, lexical innovation and other dynamic phenomena."

Presentations at the conference will include one by Princess Bembe, a UCT PhD student, on a sub-cultural group that calls itself the Pexars, from KwaThema, near Johannesburg.

"They are extravagant in their clothing and lifestyle and use mainly Is'camtho, with a slight twist that they claim is influenced by Is'tariana, a broken version of Italian," Hurst said.

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