Construction of linguistic identities among cross-border communities: The case of Samia of Uganda and Samia of Kenya

Nahayo, Sylvia (2017-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2017

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation investigated the discursive identity construction of a community who is separated by a national border. The town of Busia cuts across the Ugandan/Kenyan border and the community language is considered to be Lusamia. The study used ethnographic methods to investigate how speakers of Lusamia on both sides of the border construct their linguistic identities in relation to their own linguistic repertoires and the linguistic repertoires of others. My theoretical interest in this was sparked by a gap in the literature, namely, that most studies which investigate language and identity construction within multilinguals focus on urban communities. Although early sociolinguistic studies within the ethnographic tradition, focused on rural communities (Gumperz 1971, 1964; Hymes 1962, 1964), recently the city has become the most frequently studied setting for multilingualism. My study builds on a small (but growing) body of research on contemporary multilingualism in rural African communities (see for example Banda and Jimaima 2015); Deumert and Mabandla 2013). Against this backdrop, I examined how speakers of Lusamia that live in a rural community and are multilingual negotiate different linguistic identities just like their counterparts in the urban centers. My study will thus turn the attention (back) on the everyday linguistic practices of a rural, multilingual community within an African context. Data for this study were collected using various ethnographically informed methods. The data collection instruments included observations, interviews and a survey of the linguistic landscape. Linguistic landscapes are defined as ―the language of public road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, etc.‖ (Landry and Bourhis, 1997: 25). Data were collected over a period of 12 months and analysed through thematic analysis (Starks and Trinidad, 2007). Two major themes emerged, that is: multilingualism as linguistic repertoire and the interplay of language, spacialisation and identity. Findings from this study suggest that participants typically have a range of linguistic resources in their repertoire. These linguistic resources are used differently by the speakers depending on the situation they are in. Sometimes the lack of the required linguistic resources(s) in a particular situation may exclude the speaker or lead to failure in communication. Furthermore, as Busch (2012) observes, the linguistic repertoire does not only include actual linguistic varieties used, but also ideologies about language. In the two countries in which Lusamia is spoken (Kenya and Uganda), different linguistic resources may be used or understood. This interaction of the different linguistic resources with Lusamia explains the subtle differences in accent and word choice in the speech of participants on both sides of the border. These differences are constructed as the distinguishing features between the Ugandan and Kenyan varieties of Samia. Thus as Samia speakers engage in various activities that call for use of different linguistic resources, they constantly negotiate different linguistic identities. Furthermore, the identity of Samia speakers is very much a multilingual one. Even rituals evolving major milestones or major events (birth, marriage, death) are performed through the use of heteroglossic meaning-making resources. In view of the results, I suggest that more research into language and identity needs to take a multilingual, spatial perspective

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Hierdie proefskrif ondersoek die diskursiewe identiteitskonstruksie van ʼn gemeenskap wat deur ʼn nasionale grens verdeel word. Die dorp, Busia sny oor die Uganda/Kenia grens en Lusamia word as die gemeenskapstaal beskou. Die studie het gebruik gemaak van etnografiese metodes om te ondersoek hoe Lusamia sprekers aan beide kante van die grens hul taalidentiteite in verband tot hul taalrepertoires en die taalrepertoires van ander konstrueer. My teoretiese belangstelling was aangewakker deur ʼn gaping in die literatuur, naamlik dat die meeste studies wat taalidentitietskonstruksie in veeltaliges ondersoek, fokus op stedelike gemeenskappe. Alhoewel vroeë sosiolinguistiese studies binne die etnografiese tradisie gefokus het of landelike gemeenskappe (Gumperz 1971, 1964; Hymes 1962, 1964), is die stad tans die mees bestudeerde ruimte van veeltaligheid. My studie bou of ʼn klein (maar groeiende) navorsingsmassa oor kontemporêre veeltaligheid in landelike Afrika gemeenskappe (kyk bv. Banda en Jimaima, 2015); Deumert en Mabandla 2013). Teen hierdie agtergrond, het ek ondersoek hoe sprekers van Lusamia wat in ʼn landelike gemeenskap bly en veeltalig is, hul taalidentiteite onderhandel net soos hul eweknieë in die stedelike sentrums. My studie sal dus die aandag (weer) vestig op die alledaagse taalpraktyke van ʼn landelike, veeltalige, gemeenskap binne die Afrika konteks. Data vir hierdie studie is deur ʼn verskeidenheid etnografies-geinformeerde metodes ingesamel. Die data-insamelingsmetode sluit in observasies, onderhoude en ʼn oorsig van die taallandskap. Taallandskap word gedefinieer as ―the language of public road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, etc.‖ (Landry en Bourhis, 1997: 25). Data is oor ʼn tydperk van 12 maande ingesamel en geanaliseer deur tematiese analise (Starks en Trinidad, 2007). Twee hooftemas het te voorskyn gekom, dit is: veeltaligheid as taalrepertoire, en die interaksie tussen taal, ruimte-skepping, en identiteit. Bevindinge uit hierdie studie dui daarop dat deelnemers tipies ʼn reeks taalbronne in hul repertoires het. Hierdie taalbronne word op verskillende wyse gebruik deur die sprekers afhangend van die situasie waarin hulle hul bevind. Soms, dien die gebrek aan taalbronne in ʼn sekere situasie as ʼn uitsluitingsmeganisme of lei tot die mislukking van kommunikasie. Verder meer, soos Busch (2012) opmerk sluit die taalrepertoire nie net eintlike taal variëteite in nie, maar ook ideologieë rondom taal. In die twee lande waarin Lusamia gepraat word (Kenia en Uganda), word verskillende taalbronne gebruik en verstaan. Hierdie interaksie van taalbronne met Lusamia verduidelik die subtiele verskille in aksent en woordkeuse in taalgebruik van deelnemers aan beide kante van die grens. Hierdie verskille word gekonstrueer as die beduidende merkers van die Ugandese en Keniaanse variëteite van Samia. Dus, soos Samia sprekers in verskeie aktiwiteite deelneem wat voorsiening maak vir verskillende taalbronne, onderhandel hulle deurentyd hul taalidentiteite. Verder meer, die taalidentiteit van Samia sprekers is by uitstek, ʼn veeltalige een. Selfs rituele wat rondom belangrike mylpale of belangrike geleenthede handel (geboorte, huwelike, dood) word gekenmerk deur heteroglottiese betekenis-skepping. In die lig van my resultate, beveel ek aan dat meer navorsing oor taal en identiteit; veeltaligheid en ruimte-skepping in ag moet neem. (Blommaert, Collins, en Slembrouck, 2005: 197).

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