LWM 506: Kisangani Swahili

Artikel-Nr.: ISBN 9783862886678
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Kisangani Swahili

Choices and Variation in a Multilingual Urban Space


Nico Nassenstein

University of Cologne


The emergence of complex language practices in multilingual settings of urban Africa and the study of speakers’ broad linguistic repertoires have increasingly moved into the academic focus of linguists over the past couple of years. Kisangani Swahili constitutes a fluid urban practice spoken in the convergence area of Lingala and Swahili in the city of Kisangani, but also throughout Tshopo District (Province Orientale, DR Congo) by more than a million people. Swahili as spoken in Kisangani has developed into a variety marked by speakers’ linguistic choices, indexing speakers’ potential underlying knowledge of Lingala and French. While the influence from French has mainly affected Kisangani Swahili at a lexical level, Lingala and to a minor extent also non-Bantu languages such as Zande have significantly contributed to morphosyntactic variation in the variety. The complementary geographical distribution of the two languages, Lingala and Swahili, in different neighborhoods of the same city, has led to fluid phonological, morphological and syntactic pools of choices in today’s Swahili that display speakers’ ideological concepts of self-revelation and orientation.

The present grammar of Kisangani Swahili can be considered the first grammatical description of this urban variety, focusing predominantly on language convergence, metatypy and irregularity in language, analyzed from a variationist sociolinguistic angle, and pursuing an emic approach in the documentation of Swahili. Phenomena such as conscious structural adaptability toward either ‘standardized’ Swahili or Lingala and calquing as strategies of linguistic agency are particularly dealt with in the present sketch, marking speakers’ linguistic identity. Besides the sociolinguistic setting, the phonological inventory and morphosyntactic structure of the language, a pragmatic analysis as well as a selection of texts and a word list conclude the description of this urban Congo Swahili regiolect.


Languages of the World/Materials 506. 261pp. 2015.

ISBN 9783862886678 (print).

ISBN 9783862887859 (e-book, pdf).

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