The way people communicate is ever evolving and this is nowhere more true than in the hub of Soweto where people from many different language groups live together.
In a doctoral study done at UCT, French-born linguist Dr Pierre Aycard looked at the use of Iscamtho, a form of urban slang that is used alongside local languages, in particular isiZulu and seSotho, in Soweto.
His thesis is titled "The use of Iscamtho by children in White City, Soweto: Slang and language contact in an African context."
Contrary to previous perceptions, he established that Iscamtho is not an exclusively adult male language, but one used by children in informal settings, preferably on the street and when communicating with their peers and occasionally in the home. Dr Aycard also found that while Iscamtho is familiar to all children, girls and boys use it in different ways.
The slang language is stable, although still changing, and has its own norms that differ strongly from standard languages. It also co-exists with isiZulu and seSotho as primary languages, in their urban mixed forms, and English as a secondary language.
Dr Aycard got to know Soweto in 2003/2004 while completing an internship at the French Institute of South Africa in Johannesburg. In 2007 he returned to South Africa to conduct research as part of his MPhil in African Studies at the University of Leiden and to study young adults' perceptions about Iscamtho and multilingualism. He completed his PhD in the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics at UCT.
"It was only natural following this experience to keep investigating language practices in White City through long-term anthropological fieldwork, and to focus on children's speech," he said.
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