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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Apperception and Linguistic Contact between German and Afrikaans

  • Author(s): Bergerson, Jeremy
  • Advisor(s): Rauch, Irmengard
  • Shannon, Thomas
  • et al.

Speakers of German and Afrikaans have been interacting with one another in Southern Africa for over three hundred and fifty years. In this study, the linguistic results of this intra-Germanic contact are addressed and divided into two sections: 1) the influence of German (both Low and High German) on Cape Dutch/Afrikaans in the years 1652-1810; and 2) the influence of Afrikaans on Namibian German in the years 1840-present. The focus here has been on the lexicon, since lexemes are the first items to be borrowed in contact situations, though other grammatical borrowings come under scrutiny as well.

The guiding principle of this line of inquiry is how the cognitive phenonemon of Herbartian apperception, or, Peircean abduction, has driven the bulk of the borrowings between the languages. Apperception is, simply put, the act of identifying a new perception as analogous to a previously existing one. The following central example to this dissertation will serve to illustrate this. When Dutch, Low German, and Malay speakers were all in contact in Capetown in the 1600 and 1700s, there were three mostly homophonous and synonymous words they were using. The Dutch knew banjer 'very', the Low Germans knew banni(g) 'very, tremendous, extraordinary', and the Malays knew banja(k) 'many, a lot, often, very'. All of these words can be considered the source for the modern Afrikaans hybrid word baie 'many, much, often, very', based on earlier banja or banje. These two forms are very close in sound and meaning to banjer, banni(g), and banja(k), and consequently when, for example, a Malay speaker heard a Low German say banni(g), he apperceived it as Malay banja(k). Likewise when a Low German speaker heard the Dutch word banjer, he apperceived it is as banni(g), and so on with all potential interlocutors. The ultimate form of the word is a compromise hybrid between them all, namely banje, which was motivated by the ease with which these three source words were apperceived by the respective speakers, as well as by their semantic similarity, which was also easily apperceived.

Bearing in mind the workings of apperception, Cape Dutch/Afrikaans and Namibian German are perfect case studies for intra-Germanic linguistic contact. Parallel developments, whether arrived at independently or by shared genesis, will reinforce one another when brought into contact, a situation which must have played itself out all throughout the history of contact between Germanic languages. Whether it was Burgundian influence on Franconian, Old Frisian on Old English, Danish on Faroese, or Dutch on East Frisian, the role of apperception must have been great in these cases of linguistic contact, whether we can show it or not, as is the problem with Langobardic, Vandalic, Burgundian and, to a lesser extent, Franconian. In the case of German and Afrikaans in Southern Africa, the well-documented archival and printed texts put the linguist in a favorable position to examine and elucidate the nature of this linguistic contact, as one will note in the study at hand.

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