On language contact and language use in Kenya
Alice Wachira (Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich, Germany) [BIO]
Kenya, multilingual and multiethnic like most other African countries, was faced with the issue of having to decide on a lingua franca for the nation after independence. This paper focuses on the effects of language use that arise as a result of having these lingua francas and also as a result of their contact with the local indigenous languages. These effects are to be observed not only on the societal level, but also on the languages themselves.
Kiswahili, which is at times mistaken to be a pidgin language which did not exist before the contact of Bantu speakers with the Arabian traders at the East African Coast (Myers-Scotton 1995), was officially declared the national language in 1974 by the then president of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta. It is the language understood and spoken by virtually every Kenyan citizen and is taught as a compulsory subject in schools. English was taken to be the official language and the language of instruction in schools and in government offices, along with Kiswahili. But the use of English in day-to-day interactions is much less than Kiswahili’s.
This paper examines the effect of language contact on language use in various parts of the country and seeks to investigate the effects of this language use on Kiswahili, English and on the indigenous languages.