Language and Ethnic Identity: More Perspectives from Africa

Hilda Kebeya Omondi


Many studies on bilingual communities have tended to focus on contact between an official/national language and one or more indigenous languages. In contrast this study analyzes data from two unofficial indigenous languages in Kenya. From the analyses carried out, it emerges that when Luo and Luyia languages are in contact there are three possible outcomes: speech divergence, speech convergence and code switching. The Luo respondents in this study are found to employ more speech divergence than their Luyia counterparts. As regards speech convergence, Luyias outscore Luos. Code switching, which is characterized by very low mean scores in the two ethnic groups, is the least preferred mode of communication. This paper also establishes that each of the three strategies serves a different social function. The goal of this paper is therefore to correlate three communication strategies with ethnicity in order to show how language loyalties interplay with ethnicity in a rural bilingual speech community in Africa. It is hoped that this research will shed more light on the relationship between ethnicity and ethnic languages in bilingual speech communities.

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International Journal of Linguistics  ISSN 1948-5425  Email:

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