Original Research

Afrikaans as a complex network: The word co-occurrence network in André P. Brink’s Donkermaan in Afrikaans, Dutch and English

Burgert A. Senekal, Cornelia Geldenhuys
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 35, No 1 | a1368 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v35i1.1368 | © 2016 Burgert A. Senekal, Cornelia Geldenhuys | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 November 2015 | Published: 31 August 2016

About the author(s)

Burgert A. Senekal, Unit for Language Facilitation and Empowerment, University of the Free State, South Africa
Cornelia Geldenhuys, Unit for Language Facilitation and Empowerment, University of the Free State, South Africa

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Language has already been approached as a system since De Saussure, and recently the theory of complex systems has been applied within Linguistics as well. Complex systems, however, can also be modelled as complex networks, and a variety of studies investigating the network structure of language have already been undertaken worldwide. The current study follows in the footsteps of overseas studies and investigates the network structure of Afrikaans by analysing a word co-occurrence network compiled from André P. Brink’s novel Donkermaan. Link distribution patterns and the small-world phenomenon are investigated and then compared to the English and Dutch translations of this novel. The current study represents the first network study of Afrikaans. Firstly, the random network model of Erdös and Rényi and the scale-free network model by Barabási and Albert are used to indicate that the link distribution patterns in a word co-occurrence network of Afrikaans are better described according to the network model of Barabási and Albert than by that of Erdös and Rényi. Furthermore, the method proposed by Humphreys and Gurney to define smallworldedness (S) was used to quantify this phenomenon for the Afrikaans, as well as English and Dutch versions of the text. With 522 ≤ S ≤ 797, it is indicated that Afrikaans, English and Dutch are all clearly small-world networks. Suggestions are also made for further research.


complex systems, complex networks, linguistic networks, word co-occurrence networks, small-worldedness


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