Higher Degree Research
Language and survival strategies in contact zones:
The case of cross-border traders and southern Africa

This research is a critical exposition of communication strategies employed by cross-border traders (CBTs) at selected border sites in Southern Africa. The study spotlights the innovative ways by which CBTs circumvent nationally imposed language policies and practices that are a barrier to their survival and success in the trade arena. The study revealed that both the communication and trade practices of CBTs are under significant threat, thus prompting the need for survival strategies. Based on an ethnographic study of the discursive language behaviours of CBTs, the research contributes a multi-modal, non-discriminatory and socio-culturally inclusive alternative model of communication in cross-border trade contexts.

While the research focused on Southern Africa as a case study for testing its theoretical and conceptual propositions, the findings are of international significance and have multidisciplinary applications. The findings and social policy recommendations of this study are of immense benefit to all linguistically and culturally diverse societies at national and global scales. The application of the findings of this research will help us see what we couldn’t—or wouldn’t—see before in our search for epistemologies of language that facilitate business transactions in informal cross-border trade activities. It is also hoped that the contributions from this research will create the spirit of tolerance and accommodation in contexts of linguistic diversity. The innovative philosophy of language and communication pioneered by this study promises to be a major addition to emerging and quite contemporary scholarly debates and conversations calling for theories of language that speak to the real communicative practices of real people in their everyday real lives.

Jesta Masuku, doctoral candidate
School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences