This is a comprehensive and wide-ranging guide to language and society in South Africa. As the authors demonstrate, the South African context offers a treasure trove of data and examples for linguistic and sociolinguistic study. The book surveys the most important language groupings in the region in terms of pre-colonial and colonial history; contact between the different language varieties, leading to language loss, pidginization, creolization and new mixed varieties; language and public policy issues associated with the transition to a post-apartheid society and its eleven official languages. It details the history of indigenous languages, the impact of European languages upon them, and of transformations to the European languages themselves. Written by a team of leading researchers, all the chapters are informed by the importance of socio-political history in understanding questions of language. The book will be welcomed by students and researchers in language and linguistics, sociology, anthropology and social history.