English in Kenya or Kenyan English?

by Natalia Budohoska (Author)
©2014 Monographs 191 Pages


The book aims to recognize or reject English in Kenya as a new, emancipated variety of English developing in a multilingual environment of permanent language contact. It discusses in detail the sociolinguistic situation in contemporary Kenya based on Labov’s extra-linguistic parameters and the results of a customized survey carried out by the author in Kenya. Furthermore, it identifies and describes characteristic stylistic, lexical, morphological and syntactic features of English in Kenya on the basis of the International Corpus of English (ICE). The theoretical framework employs Schneider’s Dynamic Model of Postcolonial Englishes and an effort is made to put the amount of variation found in the ICE into a wider context of other varieties of English around the world.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of contents
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter one: The history and status of English in Kenya
  • 1.0. Preliminary remarks
  • 1.1. Historical background
  • 1.2. Sociolinguistic situation
  • 1.3. Postcolonial Englishes in the framework of Schneider’s Dynamic Model
  • 1.4. Review of related literature
  • 1.5. Aims of this study
  • Chapter two: The data and the method
  • 2.0. Preliminary remarks
  • 2.1. Corpus linguistics and the International Corpus of English
  • 2.2. Tools
  • 2.3. Method
  • 2.4. Language contact
  • Chapter three: The mulilingual Kenya in a Labovian framework
  • 3.0. Preliminary remarks
  • 3.1. Statistical demographic data
  • 3.2. Fieldwork data
  • 3.2.1. Conduct of the survey
  • 3.2.2. Summary of the data
  • 3.3. Analysis of the data
  • 3.3.1. Ethnic identity versus national identity
  • 3.3.2. Language competence and the frequency of language use
  • 3.3.3. Labov’s extralinguistic variables
  • 3.3.4. Language choice in a multilingual reality
  • 3.4. Partial conclusions
  • Chapter four: The formality of language in the ICE-K: a quantitative study
  • 4.0. Preliminary remarks
  • 4.1. Selection of the data
  • 4.2. Frequency overview
  • 4.3. Phrasal verbs
  • 4.4. Expressions of personal opinion
  • 4.5. Contracted negative forms
  • 4.6. Linking words and expressions
  • 4.7. Intensifies
  • 4.8. Partial conclusions
  • Chapter five: The Kiswahili borrowings in the ICE-K
  • 5.0. Preliminary remarks
  • 5.1. Africanisms and the theories of borrowing
  • 5.2. Africanisms in the ICE-K
  • 5.3. Semantic features according to linguistic fields
  • 5.3.1. Socio-political spectrum
  • 5.3.2. Professional life
  • 5.3.3. Kinship terms
  • 5.3.4. Food and drink
  • 5.3.5. Tools and weapons
  • 5.3.6. Function words
  • 5.4. Changes in meaning
  • 5.5. Grammatical assimilation
  • 5.6. Stylistic features
  • 5.7. Partial conclusions
  • Chapter six: The characteristic morphological and syntactic features in the ICE-K
  • 6.0. Preliminary remarks
  • 6.1. Variation according to word class
  • 6.2. Complexity versus simplicity
  • 6.3. Variation in spelling
  • 6.4. Productive word formation patterns
  • 6.5. Overview of characteristic features across varieties of English
  • 6.6. Partial conclusions
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • (a) Sources
  • (b) Special studies
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Appendices
  • Appendix 1.
  • Appendix 2.
  • Appendix 3.
  • Appendix 4.
  • Appendix 5.
  • Appendix 6.
  • Appendix 7.
  • Pronouns, pronoun exchange, pronominal gender
  • Noun phrase
  • Verb phrase: Tense & aspect
  • Verb phrase: Modal verbs
  • Verb phrase: Verb morphology
  • Adverbs
  • Negation
  • Agreement
  • Relativization
  • Complementation
  • Discourse organization and word order
  • Series Index

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The present monograph is based on my doctoral dissertation and is targeted at researching the characteristic features of English used in Kenya, also taking into consideration the sociolinguistic factors. The aim of this study is to confirm or reject the status of Kenyan English – a hypothetical new variety of postcolonial English.

The book consists of six chapters (two introductory and four analytical), Conclusions and seven Appendices. It opens with Chapter one which provides (1) the historical and sociolinguistic background for English in Kenya, (2) an account of Schneider’s Dynamic Model for postcolonial Englishes used as a reference point in this study, (3) a review of related literature and an outline of the previous research into the issue of English in East Africa and, finally, (4) a presentation of the aims of the study.

Chapter two contains a brief outline of problems, methods and tools connected with corpus linguistics as applied in this study and discusses the issues of language contact found relevant in light of this study.

Chapter three is based on the fieldwork data collected by the author in Kenya and attempts to clarify the status of English, Kiswahili and tribal languages in light of Labov’s extralinguistic variables (2001: 147): age, gender, education, social background and occupation.

Chapter four contains a quantitative comparison of the selected stylistic features of English in Kenya (ICE-K) and English in Great Britain (ICE-GB) to decide upon differences in formality levels between a non-native, multilingual and a native, monolingual use. The chi square test is used to confirm the statistical significance of the findings.

Chapters five and six offer a qualitative analysis of the characteristic features of English in Kenya. Chapter five concentrates on Africanisms in the ICE-K, which are presented in light of various theories of borrowing. Also, this chapter contains their semantic, grammatical and stylistic analyses. Chapter six focuses on morphological and syntactic features as well as productive word formation patterns, as reflected in the ICE-K in comparison to the universal criteria for new varieties of English as set up by Kortmann (2008: xxv-xxix) and Szmrecsanyi — Kortmann (2009: 68). This is done in order to facilitate the future comparative studies of various emerging and emancipated varieties of English. ← 11 | 12 →

The results of the analyses performed in this study are summarized in the Conclusions, where a number of broader observations and closing remarks are made concerning social, stylistic, semantic, morphological and syntactic aspects of English in Kenya. In an attempt to put the findings of this study into the wider context of the postcolonial varieties of English, the results of this study are summarized and confronted with Schneider’s Dynamic Model. Finally, some suggestions for further research are put forward.

In the course of preparing my work I have had an occasion to be grateful to a number of people and institutions. First of all, the completion of this monograph would not have been possible without the support, encouragement and advice from my supervisor Professor Jerzy Wełna from the Institute of English Studies at the University of Warsaw, for which I wish to express my warmest gratitude. Secondly, I would like to thank all the Kenyan informants who agreed to be part of this research and with their dedication proved to be an incredible inspiration and motivation to finish it. As regards the theoretical framework of this monograph, I have done the most extensive parts of this research as the Academic Visitor at the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge in 2010/11, financed thanks to a scholarship from the Clifford and Mary Corbridge Trust. During the course of this research parts of this study have been presented at several international conferences financed with the support of the University of Warsaw and finally published in Budohoska (2011a & b) and (2012a, b, c & d).

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Chapter one

The history and status of English in Kenya

1.0. Preliminary remarks

It is hard to estimate how many people in the contemporary world speak English, since already almost 30 years ago Quirk claimed that English has become the language “on which the sun does not set, whose users never sleep” (Quirk 1985: 1). Today, English enjoys the official, semi-official or an even informally special status in over seventy countries worldwide. And if we combine it with the number of speakers who use it as a means of international communication it becomes clear that the non-native speakers form a majority. These statistics alone suggest that English is no longer synonymous with British or American Standard but rather that a number of varieties all over the world are in the process of emerging (Swann 2007: 11).

Before examining the International Corpus of English for Kenya (from now onwards referred to as the ICE-K) and drawing conclusions about the Kenyan variety of English it is essential to become familiarized with the history and status of the English language in that country. Taking into account the general characteristics of the Kenyan society before, during and after the period of British colonisation allows one to achieve a better understanding of the consequences that the historical events had on the linguistic situation. The sections below contain a brief description of Kenya’s historical background followed by an account of the sociolinguistic situation. This is followed by a brief characteristics of postcolonial Englishes, a review of related literature, and finally a statement of the purpose of this study is formulated.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (September)
Soziolinguistik Mehrsprachigkeit Sprachvarietäten International Corpus of English
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 191 pp., 37 b/w fig., 25 tables

Biographical notes

Natalia Budohoska (Author)

Natalia Budohoska is a graduate of the Institute of English Studies at the University of Warsaw. Her areas of academic research include sociolinguistics and varieties of English. She has published several papers on English in Kenya and is continuing research on varieties of English around the world.


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196 pages