November 2018
14 black and white, 12 line illustrations
236 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781847012074
Format: Hardback
James Currey
BISAC LAN009050, FOR001000, FOR042000


Rise of a Kenyan Swahili Vernacular

Chege Githiora

Of interest to linguists, artists, ma-youth, scholars of urban studies, educationalists, policy makers and language planners who are grappling with the challenges of multilingualism and language of education in Kenya.
The city of Nairobi is a rich context for the study of sociolinguistic phenomena. The coexistence of speakers of many different languages, further differentiated by socio-economic class, age and ethnicity provide conditions for the development of a mixed code such as Sheng, an urban variety of Kenyan Swahili which has morphed from a "youth language" into a vernacular of wider use. Sheng is a unique phenomenon in the study of linguistic change and innovation in an African context, a reflection of the ethnolinguistic diversity of Kenya, and language asymmetry created by socio-economic disparities. It also provides a window into understanding the processes of urban multilingualism, within the specific space structuring of Nairobi city.
This book is a detailed account of the rise and development of Sheng, its linguistic structure, social functions, and possible future directions. The author's analysis of its presence in newspapers, TV, radio and online, makes it clear that Sheng functions as a particularly useful lens through which to explore contemporary Kenya.

Chege Githiora lectures in Swahili and Applied Linguistics at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and is author of Afro-Mexicans: Discourse of race and identity in the African Diaspora.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781787443754), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.
Keywords: African Studies

Table of Contents

Sheng as Kenyan Swahili
An Overview of Language in Kenya: Power vs Solidarity
Nairobi: A Linguistic Mosaic and Crucible of Sheng
'Kenyan Swahili': Complex and Multifaceted
Some Features of Sheng
Expanded Domains and Global Influences
Sheng in Practice
Conclusion: The Rise of a Swahili Vernacular
Sheng Glossary


'Sheng uses Kiswahili grammar and the lexicon of African and other languages, and for this reason Professor Githiora has identified Sheng as a variety of Kiswahili which has affected the teaching of Standard English, Kiswahili and other languages in East Africa, but especially in Kenya. This is the first book devoted wholly to various aspects of Sheng and it will greatly help the reader to understand this Kenyan linguistic phenomenon.' - IRERI MBAABU, Professor of Kiswahili and Linguistics, Kenyatta University.

'...a book length study of Sheng is overdue, and it is refreshing to see that a respected scholar and linguist, as the author is widely regarded to be, has decided to undertake this task. Chege Githiora's book is a very important addition to the literature on the linguistic construction of youth identities, especially under conditions of cultural mobility ... of interest to a wide range of scholars and students.' - ALAMIN MAZRUI, Professor of Sociolinguistics and Cultural Studies at Rutgers University

'How to create national unity in a multilingual postcolonial state with two colonially inherited standard languages? Githiora's important book draws a compelling picture of Sheng, through which Kenyans agentively appropriate English and Standard Swahili into a fluid register that also integrates their multilingual repertoires, creating the real national language of this East African country.' - FRIEDERIKE LUPKE, Professor of Language Documentation and Description, University of London (SOAS)

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