Accepted paper:

Going back to the roots: re-branding of indigenous languages in Kenya


Ann Hildah Gatakaa Kinyua (Chuka University)
Fridah Erastus (Kenyatta University)

Paper short abstract:

Exploration of new frontiers opened up by putting indigenous languages in Kenya to new uses through mass media as well as a discussion of the connections thus created and the disruptions inevitably introduced.

Paper long abstract:

Kenya, like many African countries, is intensely multilingual, with over sixty indigenous languages. A former British Colony, the country gained independence in 1963, but until 2010 when a new constitution was promulgated, English has been the official language on all formal documents and the language of education. Since 2010, Kiswahili, a Bantu language, became a co-official language, while at the same time retaining its status as the national language. Kiswahili is also generally accepted as a regional lingua franca and one can easily communicate across East Africa in it. The 2010 Kenyan constitution had two crucial inclusions that had a bearing on language policies: firstly, Kiswahili was declared the second official language. Secondly, the constitution introduced a devolved system of government, where Kenya was divided up into forty-seven counties which largely reflected the ethnic and consequently language groups represented in the country. Subsequent elaborations of the significance of devolution to educational policies recognized the indigenous languages spoken in the various counties as tenable for instruction in the elementary classes. The devolved system of government also motivated and strengthened ethnic identities that over the last few years have found expression through mother-tongue radio and television stations. The reasons for the establishment of these stations are varied, ranging from cultural expression to promotion of particular faiths to educational matters. The purpose of this paper therefore is to explore and document the frontiers that have been opened up by the revision of language policies in Kenya, as well as the consequent ramifications.

panel Lang01
Connections and disruptions: a sociolinguistic perspective