With an investment value in excess of R1.1 billion since its inception in 2005, the Department of Science and Technology’s South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) was designed to strengthen the country’s universities to produce high quality research and innovation output, and through this, increase the quality of the training of postgraduate students, thereby contributing more directly to growing the knowledge economy in South Africa. The SARChI Programme is managed by the National Research Foundation.

The Chairs are expected to contribute significantly towards helping universities realise their strategic research plans, and the initiative is intended to provide a base on which to consolidate and extend excellence in research. Although the programme aims to attract South African and other international research expertise from abroad, universities may nominate current staff members for Research Chairs.

[continue reading the rest on the UCT Research Office website]

[see special report in the Mail & Guardian, 27 May 2011]

Project team members

(also see Research associates & personnel for more)

Dr Ellen Hurst – Urban youth languages

—In 2013, the University of Cape Town hosted the first ever African Urban and Youth Language Conference, with a focus on Tsotsitaal.

—African urban and youth language varieties provide striking examples of mixing, coinages, syntactic change, lexical innovation and other dynamic language phenomena.

See here: —  and

Hurst, E. 2015. Overview of the Tsotsitaals of South Africa; their different base languages and common core lexical items. In: Nassenstein, N. & Wolvers, A. (eds.), Youth language practices in Africa and beyond. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

AUYL conferenceyouth






 Dr Heather Brookes – Gesture studies and urban languages

—Focusing on Bantu languages to establish developmental trajectories;

—Developing instruments to measure multimodal development;

—Cross-cultural comparison of multimodal acquisition across French, Italian, Zulu and South Sotho.

Brookes, H.J. 2014. Urban Youth Languages in South Africa: A Case Study of Tsotsitaal in a South African Township. Anthropological Linguistics, 56(3-4):356-388.


 Prof Ana Deumert – Migration Studies and Language Change

Deumert, A. & Mabandla, N. 2016. Globalization Off the Beaten Track – Chinese Migration to South Africa’s Rural Towns. In: Li Wei (ed.), Multilingualism in the Chinese Diaspora Worldwide. London: Routledge.


Prof Raj Mesthrie, Dr Alida Chevalier, Dr Yolandi Ribbens-Klein – Accent studies and social change

Undertaking a traditional regional survey of accent and vocabulary variation in 5 South African cities.

—Characterising the sociolinguistic dynamics between the different ethnic varieties.

Charting out the accelerated changes in the new de-racialising middle classes.

Mesthrie, R., Chevalier, A., McLachlan, K.A. 2015. A perception test for the deracialisation of middle class South African English. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, 33(4):1-19.

Mesthrie, R., Chevalier, A., Dunn, T. 2015. A regional and social dialectology of the BATH vowel in South African English. Language Variation and Change, 27(01):1-30.