Structure dataset 61: Fanakalo

This language is described more fully in survey chapter 61.

The use of Fanakalo pidgin was one of the ways in which inter-ethnic communication was achieved in 19th Century South Africa, first among speakers of Zulu, Xhosa, English and Afrikaans in different contexts in the Eastern Cape and Natal. It later spread to incoming Indian migrants from the 1860s onwards and was used in the gold mines of the 1880s and became closely associated with the mining industry. Grammatical and lexical differences across the country are minor, though there is some phonetic variation according to speakers’ L1s. The grammatical descriptions in the APiCS contribution draw on a variety of written and oral sources, including the academic writings of Trapp (1908), Cole (1953), Mesthrie (1989), and Adendorff (1995) as well as descriptions in handbooks put out by the mining houses or by authors aiming to promulgate the pidgin in contexts of domestic or farming employment. Where necessary the intuitions of Mesthrie and his farming relatives were used, supplemented by recordings of White, Zulu and Indian speakers by Clarissa Surek-Clark. The sample of Fanakalo speech provided for the APiCS contribution is drawn from two Indian women in a rural context who had no other common means of speaking. This Indian variety may thus at a pinch be considered the default Fanakalo lect in the APiCS contribution. In this regard it is noteworthy that some authors had earlier considered Fanakalo an Indian invention or characteristically Indian phenomenon (Trapp 1908, Cole 1953).

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No. Feature Value Details Source
No. Feature Value Details Source


Pulmonic Consonants
Place → Labial Coronal Dorsal Laryngeal
↓ Manner Bilabial Labio­dental Linguo­labial Dental Alveolar Palato-
Retroflex Alveolo-
Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal
/ Epiglottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop p  b mb t  d k   kʼʷ g
Sibilant affricate t͡ʃ d͡ʒ
Non-sibilant affricate
Sibilant fricative s z ʃ ʒ
Non-sibilant fricative f v h
Approximant l j
Flap or tap
Trill r
Lateral affricate
Lateral fricative ɬ ɮ
Lateral approximant
Lateral flap


Front Near-front Central Near-back Back Close Near-close Close-mid Mid Open-mid Near-open Open ihigh front unrounded vowel uhigh back rounded vowel ehigher mid front unrounded vowel ohigher mid back rounded vowel alow central unrounded vowel

Special segments

Other segments
 ɓ  voiced bilabial implosive plosive
 w  voiced labial-velar glide


       Exists (as a major allophone)
       Exists only as a minor allophone
       Exists only in loanwords
No. Feature Value Details Source