Kikamba language shift and endangerment in an urban upmarket setting: a sociolinguistic analysis
Muthoka, Gertrude Mwikali
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The purpose of this sociolinguistic study was to investigate Kikamba language shift/maintenance and to identify attitudes towards Kikamba among Kamba parents and their children in an urban upmarket in Nairobi. Another aim was to determine the evidence and nature of Kikamba language endangerment among the Kamba children. The study took an eclectic theoretical approach; Gaelic Arvanitika Model (GAM) by Sasse (1992) and the Marked Bilingualism Model by Batibo (2005). Qualitative and Quantitative methods were used to collect and analyze data. It also used a combination of research instruments namely; questionnaires and participant observation to collect data on language attitudes and language choice. A semi-structured interview was used to collect data on decline in knowledge of the basic vocabulary of kinship terms within the Kikamba lexicon among the Kamba children. The informant sample consisted of 24 respondents; 12 parents and 12 children. The results indicate Kikamba in an urban upmarket is losing its territory; children speak English followed by Kiswahili. Kikamba is considered as having little socio-economic value and a lot of its native words are ceasing to exist making it quite susceptible to endangerment. The results of the research thus augment language shift and endangerment studies done on the major indigenous languages in Kenya. They will also help researchers and policy makers in the formulation of clear language policies to revitalize shifting and dying languages in urban centres, they will also empower indigenous communities to perceive language shift/maintenance as a phenomenon they can control through their attitudes towards language choice. Language is a marker of identity and by documenting and recommending its maintenance, this work will contribute in saving this rich heritage.