Originally published in 1991. The transplantation of thousands of Indian workers to South Africa under indenture between 1860 and 1911 was a political act with far-reaching consequences for their linguistic traditions. In this book, the history of one of these Indic languages, Bhojpuri, and its adaptations to its new context are traced to the point where a distinct South African Bhojpuri koine (generally known as Hindi) came into being. The roots and subsequent evolution of this language variety, as well as the events contributing to its demise, form the basis of this study. Current patterns of usage by different generations are documented in the form of traditional folk tales, proverbs, riddles and songs, alongside personal interviews. This study offers a partial history of Bhojpuri speakers, who have been otherwise largely silent in the history of colonial Natal.
Table of Contents
Prologue 1. The Historical Background 2. Dialects in Contact 3. The Socio-Historical Setting of Language Shift 4. Language Contact and Language Change 5. Language Obsolescence. Appendix A: A Skeleton Grammar of Indian Bhojpuri. Appendix B: Samples. Appendix C: Questionnaires
Reviews of the original publication:
‘Mesthrie’s book is a pioneering study in the history and current status of one of the major Indic vernaculars spoken in South Africa. Aside from showing that much of what is traditionally called ‘Hindi’ in that country is in fact Bhojpuri, Mesthrie provides a detailed account of the mechanisms by which a vernacular becomes threatened, and eventually in danger of extinction: language-loss among young speakers triggered by contact with higher-status and more useful languages, and a situation in which Indian vernaculars are increasingly restricted to domestic contexts, and suffer attrition because of their loss of function. This excellent study is important both sociolinguistically (as an addition to the increasingly significant literature on language death in contact situations) and descriptively, in giving a rich and detailed account of the language and its history and current use.’
Roger Lass, University of Cape Town
‘This work is an interesting and well-written contribution to the field of sociolinguistics and, more specifically, to the study of language contact. It presents valuable linguistic information on a previously undocumented variety of the Hindi language, South African Bhojpuri, and sociolinguistic information on its history and current status in South Africa. But the major strength of this work is its detailed account of the development of South African Bhojpuri from its birth to its impending death. This account is in terms of several important sociolinguistic processes which may result from language contact: koineisation, large-scale borrowing, syntactic convergence, pidginisation, simplification, and language attrition.’
Jeff Siegel , University of New England