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Journal Article

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South African higher education is at a critical juncture in the implementation of South Africa’s multilingual language policy promoting institutional status for nine African languages, English, and Afrikaans. South African scholars, not content merely to comment from the sidelines on the policy, its promise, and challenges, have also engaged in implementation efforts. This article explores two such initiatives, both focusing on the use of African languages in higher education institutions where English is already established as the medium of instruction, and both undertaken with explicit goals of righting South Africa’s longstanding social injustices. I collaborated with colleagues at the University of Limpopo and the University of KwaZulu-Natal to assess current implementation and identify next steps and strategies for achieving truly multilingual teaching, learning, and research at their institutions. Taking up Hymes’ (1980) call for ethnographic monitoring of bilingual education, I sought in each case to jointly describe and analyze current communicative conduct, uncover emergent patterns and meanings in program implementation, and evaluate program and policy in terms of social meanings. I argue that ethnographic monitoring in education offers one means toward not taking language inequality for granted.

Copyright/Permission Statement

This is the accepted version of the following article: Hornberger, N. (2014). On Not Taking Language Inequality for Granted: Hymesian Traces in Ethnographic Monitoring of South Africa’s Multilingual Language Policy. Multilingua, 33(5/6), 625-647, which has been published in final form at


biliteracy, ethnography, language policy, isiZulu, bilingual higher education, seSotho sa Leboa



Date Posted: 20 November 2015

This document has been peer reviewed.