Professor Mesthrie completed his MA in Linguistics at the University of Texas (Austin) and his PhD in Linguistics at the University of Cape Town in 1985. He was Head of the Linguistics Section of the Department of English Language and Literature (1998 to 2009), and is Professor of Linguistics in the School of African & Gender Studies, Anthropology & Linguistics at the University of Cape Town. He holds an NRF (SARCHI) chair in Migration, Language and Social change.
He is a past President of the Linguistics Society of Southern Africa (2001-2009) and a past head of the Linguistics Section at UCT (1998-2009). He was elected honorary life executive member of the Linguistics Society of Southern Africa in 2012. Previous duties have included trusteeship of the National Language Project (directed by Neville Alexander), membership of the English National Language Body (convened by Parliament as part of the PAN SA Language Board), and chair of the NRF rating committee for Language and Literature. He is currently an executive member of the International Society for English Linguistics and an elected member of the SA Academy of Science.
Prof. Mesthrie has published widely in the field of Sociolinguistics, with special reference to language contact and variation in South Africa. He is the series editor of CUP’s Key Topics in Sociolinguistics, and was co-editor of the Cambridge University Press journal English Today, which produces scholarship mostly on English in multilingual, global and migratory contexts, and currently serves as advisory editor. He is a board member of another 12 journals in the fields of sociolinguistics; historical linguistics; globalisation and English; South African sociolinguistics; and sociology and African studies.