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Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics

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Linguistic change, Zulu language -- Ideophone, Language variation


The first step in the discussion is to demonstrate that ideophones constitute a word class, a relatively uncontroversial claim for Southern Bantu. The second is to show that native speakers of Zulu do not share equal knowledge of ideophones and how this knowledge correlates with social factors. Measured knowledge of ideophones is evaluated against the social factors of age, sex, education, residence patterns, and rusticity, a parameter to be elaborated below. The conclusion is that just as for pidgins and creoles (Childs 1994) the knowledge and use of ideophones serves as a reliable barometer for language typing and language change, and perhaps for language shift and death.


Originally appeared in Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics, volume 15 (1996); published by the University of Toronto. May be found at

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