Afrikaans ăf˝rəkäns´ [key], member of the West Germanic group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Germanic languages ). Although its classification is still disputed, it is generally considered an independent language rather than a dialect or variant of Dutch (see Dutch language ). Afrikaans is spoken by close to 8 million people in the Republic of South Africa, where it is an official language, and by about 1.5 million people in Namibia, where it is the common language of most of the population. At least half of its native speakers in South Africa are not white. It arose from the Dutch spoken by the Boers, who emigrated from the Netherlands to South Africa in the 17th cent., but in its written form it dates only from 1861. The grammar has been considerably simplified. Its vocabulary is essentially similar to that of Dutch; Afrikaans has absorbed quite a few words from the Khoisan languages, Bantu (such as words designating local flora and fauna), and English.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Language and Linguistics