As far as the eye can see

Urban bias in South African linguistic research

Authors

  • Irina Turner University of Bayreuth

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/sols.38789

Keywords:

urban bias, South Africa, sociolinguistic research, Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, research bias, rural multilingualism

Abstract

Urban bias remains a debated topic in South Africa in many spheres of society. Due to the logic of apartheid, ‘rural’ came to mean ‘black’; or in post-apartheid-speak ‘previously disadvantaged’. Up to today, the effects of long-term structural and systematic disadvantaging are quite tangible in the country. Though in parts also applicable to urban settings, poverty, insufficient infrastructure and lack of access are largely foremost still a problem of the rural – and mostly black – population. These structural imbalances are purported through a number of social fields including academia. Often, studies are conducted where access and conveniences are close and risks impeding the successful completion of research projects are low. While the tendency to consider feasibility in research is not per se questionable, the total body of research projects and results might foreground a distorted reflection of South Africa’s sociolinguistic landscape. Binary categories of urban/rural, however, carry a certain bias within themselves and are thus not comfortably fitting in a South African context but call for deconstruction. On this background, the chapter presents a critical review of 135 scholarly articles (2010–2017) from the eminent linguistic journal Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies examined for traces of urban bias in the research set up and weighs the results in the light of the current socio-political situation in South Africa.

Author Biography

Irina Turner, University of Bayreuth

Irina Turner is Academic Councillor at the chair of African Language Studies at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. Her research interests are interdisciplinary questions of Sociology and Political Economy of Language and Sociolinguistics, Language Politics and Policies in South Africa as well as Decolonization of Higher Education. She published on the businification of political language and rhetoric in post-apartheid South Africa and currently works on the effects of decolonization and digitalization on the South African language isiXhosa. 

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Published

2020-12-16

How to Cite

Turner, I. (2020). As far as the eye can see: Urban bias in South African linguistic research. Sociolinguistic Studies, 14(3), 257–275. https://doi.org/10.1558/sols.38789