New book explores Cape Muslim Afrikaans

Author of Dictionary of loanwords in the Cape Muslim vernacular Mogamat Alexander.

Author Mogamat Alexander launched his book, Dictionary of Loanwords in the Cape Muslim Vernacular, at the Al-Iklhaas Academia Library and Resource Centre, in Lansdowne, on Saturday.

Apart from being a record of past and present loanwords in the Cape Muslim Afrikaans language, it also explores the words’ origins and explains aspects of the language culture of the Cape Muslims and Arabic-Afrikaans, according to Mr Alexander.

The book was seven years in the making, said Mr Alexander, and the idea for it was born when he and a colleague came across different meanings of the same Cape Muslim words, and he thought a book could help to save the language and its associated culture and history.

The Afrikaans used by Cape Muslims when speaking to each other differed from the language they used when speaking to non-Cape Muslims, he said, because there were so many foreign loanwords in the Cape Muslim Afrikaans, including Cape Malay words such as tamaf (sorry), trama kasie (thank you), boeka (breaking of the fast during Ramadaan), Labarang (Eid), and maningal (died).

Arabic loanwords include fitnah (speaking about other people), janazah (funeral), and shukran (thank you). There are also self-created Afrikaans words including koples boek (madressa notebooks), and hujaajies (those returning from hajj).

Cape Muslim Afrikaans was not always understandable to non-Cape Muslims because of the loanwords, said Mr Alexander.

“This is the reason for the book: to introduce this version of Afrikaans to the rest of the world. The minute we speak to non-Cape Muslims, we subconsciously replace all these words with the equivalent English or Afrikaans word. I hope that this book will be well received, and on the last page, we ask that if people want to make a contribution to the book they can.”

Omar Ameer says he thoroughly enjoyed editing the book.

Omar Ameer said he thoroughly enjoyed editing the book and was glad that someone decided to document the Cape Muslim Afrikaans language.

“The first day, Mogamat phoned me and said, ‘So, how far did you get?’ And I said, ‘It’s only been one day,“ and he said, ‘Okay, good, because I made a few changes.’ The next day, he did the same, and I said, ‘It’s only been one day,’ and he said, ‘Okay, good, I made a few changes,” and then again, a third time, he did that. His passion for this book is so profound. I hope there will be many more.“

Professor Mohammed Haron believes the book will help to prevent the Cape Muslim Afrikaans language from dying out.

Professor Mohammed Haron, from the University of Botswana’s theology and religious studies department, said that Mr Alexander’s book was an important step in preventing the Cape Muslim Afrikaans language from dying out.

“You’ve put all of these language phrases and understanding of the language in a particular context so that we can have a better understanding of who we are, how our forebears have contributed to this and how we can take this into the future.

“At least now we can say that there is a book that captures all of these. We will have critics, but let’s look at the contribution that has been made. From a purely linguistic dimension, a language dimension and heritage dimension, we see his particular contribution and the importance of it.”