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The Nature of Phonological Variation in the Speech of trilingual Kalenjin speakers in Kenya

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... With specific reference to the Kenyan situation, for example, Zuengler (1982: 115) says that 'there are certain formal aspects of English which distinguish the Kenyan English from standard native speaker varieties of English'. For identification and description of these features, see the works of Angogo and Hancock (1980); Bailey and Görlach (1982); Hocking (1974); Kembo-Sure, 1996;Muthwii (1994b); Muthwii and Lodge (1995); Ogutu (1993) and Zuengler (1982). The features discussed in these works as indicators of Kenyan English cut across the first-language backgrounds of its users. ...
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English plays a key role in Kenya' s educational system, not only as an important subject but especially as the medium of instruction. It has been claimed that the model and the norm of the English used in Kenya, apart from pidgin varieties, is the British Standard variety and in particular, Received Pronunciation (RP) (Schmied, 1990; Zuengler, 1982). Is this indeed the case? If not, what are the actual norms of correctness and appropriateness with regard to pronunciation, grammar, semantics, or pragmatics within the Kenyan community? There exists a discrepancy between the theoretical norm and the actual language behaviour, what challenges does this state of affairs pres- ent to an education system that relies heavily on the use of the English language? In examining these issues the paper adopts a historical perspective and discusses the factors that indicate the presence of a discrepancy between a theoretical norm and the actual language behaviour and then explores the consequences of such a situation. It also considers the valuable lessons that could be learnt, firstly from local creative writ- ers' adaptation to the sociolinguistic/sociocultural reality, secondly from the move towards the democratisation and Africanisation of education in Kenya' s history, and thirdly from what is happening in other non-native English contexts.
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This article presents findings of a research into the way an ethnic language interacts sociolinguistically with two lingua francas in Kenya. Some of its major findings include how to set up inter-lingual variables and how to establish quantitatively the function of the variations and variable use of portions of the linguistic systems in contact. It presents an interpretation of the various variants and shows the way speakers use them as means of identifying with different social groups: the two main identities in Kenya being either ethnic group identities or extra-group ones. It is argued that the amounts of ethnic language features in the speech of an individual reflects the degree to which s/he has shifted from one set of norms to another: the less ethnic language features in speech the more a speaker has moved away from ethnic norms and ethnicity towards extra-group norms and an extra-group identity. Moreover, adequate explanations for language use phenomena in language contact situations require a clear understanding of the linguistic differences in the languages in contact, their social meanings and the way the complex social systems work to enforce the varied sets of norms in such communities.
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