Edited By Markus Bieswanger and Amei Koll-Stobbe
II. Diversity and hybridization as contact-induced variability
II. Diversity and hybridization as contact-induced varia- bility The evolution of urban hybrid languages in Kenya: The case of Sheng and Engsh Lillian Kaviti Abstract Engsh and Sheng are forms of communication used mainly by urban youth who were born and bred in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. The terms “Sheng” and “Engsh” are blended forms derived from the compounds “Swahili-English” (Sheng) and “English-Swahili” (Engsh) respectively. The exact status of these forms of communication and whether they exist as distinct languages or varieties of the same language, slang forms, pidgins or mixed codes is controversial, especially since neither form manifests all of the typical reduction fea- tures found in established pidgin languages. Moreover, Engsh has often been categorized as a contextual variant of Sheng – a position which this discussion seeks to dispute using evidence drawn from the morpho-syntactic and phonological structure of the two forms of communica- tion. In this discussion, I consistently refer to the two forms as distinct urban hybrid lan- guages, with Sheng basing its grammatical structure on ‘mainland Kiswahili’ (‘Kiswahili cha Bara’), while Engsh manifests the morpho-syntax and phonology of the variety of English used in Kenya or ‘Kenyan English’ (a term whose use is controversial, considering the nu- merous socio-economic variables that influence the use of English in Kenya). Sheng developed in the early 1970’s and was initially used by the youth growing up in the low income (Eastlands) areas of Nairobi, while Engsh evolved around the same time mainly in the upper middle-class...
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