This article attempts to place the discussion on the relationship between African American
and European American vernacular Englishes within a broader context involving another
speech community split along ethnic lines, namely South Africa’s Afrikaans speakers. It
specifically attempts to compare observations on the coloured-white linguistic divide within
South Africa’s Afrikaans speech community with those made on the black-white linguistic
divide in the United States, with the aim of shedding light on the correlation between
ethnicity and language variation. The article first presents ethnicity and its social and
linguistic correlates, drawing on literature on AA(V)E and South Africa. It then identifies the
social and linguistic specificities of the American English and Afrikaans speech communities.
After presenting a range of grammatical variables and their comparability across both speech
communities, it provides an overview first of the various trends of grammatical variation
from a mainly variationist perspective, then of Afrikaans-English code-switching, which is
treated as a phenomenon that correlates with grammatical variation. It finally attempts to
answer the general question whether the U.S. black-white linguistic divide in South Africa’s
Afrikaans speech community can be referred to as complementary in the study of ethnicity
and language variation.