SOAS University of London

Centre of African Studies

Sheng – Rise of a Kenyan Swahili Vernacular

Dr Chege Githiora (author)

Date: 21 January 2019Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 21 January 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: BG02

Type of Event: Book Launch

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.

Publisher: James Currey Ltd

ISBN-10: 1847012078

ISBN-13: 978-1847012074

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). He is author of 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. Dr Githiora served as Chairman of the Centre of African Studies (2009-2012), and is a current member of the Modern Languages Advisory Board, of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). He also sits on the editorial committee of the Journal of African Cultural Studies (JACS).


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Organiser: SOAS Centre of African Studies

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