Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/8310
East African English. Linguistic Features and Background
The aim of this paper is to describe the most notable features and background of English in East Africa. That is: Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. For this to be possible, English as a second language has to be discussed, since English is the second, third, or even fourth language of East Africa’s inhabitants. The development and characteristics of English in Africa generally will thus be discussed before the discussion turns to East African English with a special emphasis on Kenya.
One of the most significant factors concerning the East African varieties of English is the speaker’s mother tongue, since phonology, pronunciation, and grammatical processing is limited by it. History has also had a strong impact. English arrived in the region as the language of the colonists and was used only for administration at first. Gradually its usage increased, especially with the emergence of a robust educational system, and the desire of many to understand English, the most wide spread language on the globe. Language policy and sociolinguistic setting has also impacted the development and status of English heavily.
The most prominent distinctive feature of East African English is its limited number of vowels and syllable stressed pronunciation, but there are also other distinctive features related to vocabulary and grammar. It is often either the speaker’s mother tongue or the intertribal lingua franca Swahili, also called Kiswahili, which plays a major role in creating and maintaining these features. Many of these features have appeared in studies performed with comparisons to Standard British English.
The East African variety of English is, like all other languages, constantly evolving. Its origin is rooted in the language of colonists and its has developed into being an official language that East Africa’s inhabitants choose to utilize when communicating with one another and to strengthen their ties to the English speaking world.
As access to English material becomes more readily available on the Internet and in the media, it is evident that the position of English will only strengthen in East Africa, while still maintaining its distinctive features.