Sheng – Rise of a Kenyan Swahili Vernacular
On 21 January 2019
At SOAS, London
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 socioeconomic 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.
About the Author
Dr 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 many peer reviewed journal articles and books including Diccionario Swahili-Español (El Colegio de Mexico, 2002), Afro-Mexicans: Discourse of Race and Identity in the African Diaspora (Africa World Press, 2008), and Unmarked Grave (Phoenix Publishing, 2017), a translation of the 1969 Swahili original, Kaburi Bila Msalaba. His latest book, Sheng: Rise of a Kenyan Swahili Vernacular (James Currey, forthcoming November 2018) is an in-depth study of the complexities of multilingualism in Nairobi City, change and variation in Swahili, translanguaging and the role of African languages in education.
Dr Githiora is a current member of the Modern Languages Advisory Board, of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and member of the editorial board of the Journal of African Cultural Studies (JACS).
The event is Free. Register here
Date & Time
Monday 21 January 2019
17:15 – 19:00 GMT
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square
Centre of African Studies is the largest centre of expertise on Africa outside Africa. Founded in 1965 at SOAS, University of London, where its administration is still based, since 1991 the Centre has assumed formal responsibility for co-ordinating, stimulating and promoting interdisciplinary study, research and discussion on Africa within the University and promoting a wider awareness of African issues.
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