Cross-border Trade in Southern Africa: Language, Discourse and Survival Strategies

seminar presented by Jesta Masuku, PhD Candidate, Linguistics UNE

Southern African borders have simultaneously become contested spaces of hegemonic language impositions and arenas for ‘free linguistics’. This talk presents data on the language practices of cross border traders collected from three border sites in Southern Africa to illustrate particular points about how different ideologies of language collude and collide in multiple and unpredictable ways at the zones of informal cross border trading. Based on oral interviews and on-site observations, it came to light that cross border traders have defied nation-state-centric language controls and exhibit multiple strategies of poly-communication that have sustained their survival and success of their business activities at the border sites (hereafter the contact zones). The language practices, discourse and survival strategies presented and discussed in this talk came out of preliminary analysis of data. Among the multiple ways of communication and negotiating meaning that were identified are the following: KISS (Keep It Simple Short) strategy, linguistic detours, semiotic and paralinguistic practices, inter-lingual agents, visual media techniques, mental language corpora/reservoirs and polyphonic translanguaging strategies. This talk, therefore, links these complex polyphonic language practices and poly-communication strategies to the fast changing notions of language definition and conceptualization. The overall intention is to suggest alternative understandings of how language functions as a multimodal and multilingual practice among real people in everyday real life.