Date: July 16, 2013Venue: IFRA-Nairobi
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Sheng emerged in the 1960s in the multicultural environment of Nairobi. It is an urban language which combines mainly Kiswahili and English but also other Kenyan languages such as Kikuyu, Luyha, Dholuo and Kikamba. Sheng is characterized by an important linguistic flexibility. It does not have an official status even if it is widely spoken, especially by the youth. Originally used as a vehicular language between people from different regions, it is increasingly becoming a vernacular language, some people born in the 1980s or later speaking Sheng as their first language.
Studies on Sheng describe the codes functions as falling somewhere between secret uses, in its extreme registers, and a general lingua franca purpose. This use as a lingua franca is perceived to neutralize the formality of standard Swahili – regarded as difficult – while at the same time countering the parochial aspects of using ethnic languages. However, current research appears to indicate that Sheng has overrun its original domains and registers: it now permeates the entire sociolinguistic landscape of Kenya.
The conference will be chaired by Prof. Fredrick K. Iraki (United States International University, Nairobi) and facilitated by Claude Frey (Université de Paris 3, French Embassy in Nairobi).
“Linguistic and sociolinguistic description of Sheng” by Aurelia Ferrari (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, France). This presentation focuses on phonological, morphological, syntactical and lexical characteristics of Sheng and languages practices/representations in Nairobi. It will also include a brief discussion on artistic uses of Sheng (in hip hop music, literature, mchongwano since Sheng is part of popular culture in Nairobi.
“The rise and rise of Sheng: language and identity in modern Kenya” by Prof. Chege Githiora (Kenyatta University, and School of Oriental and African Studies, UK). Based on recent and ongoing research, this presentation explores the implications of the Sheng phenomenon for school curricula, language use, national identity, and language policy and implementation in Kenya.
“Sheng and Language Pedagogy” by Prof. Peter Githinji (Ohio University, Athens USA). This presentation discusses the issue of language pedagogy and exam performance, exploring the challenges posed by Sheng in teaching Swahili in foreign institutions; it asserts that dealing with language pedagogy issues should involve collaborative efforts between teachers of Swahili in Kenya and abroad.