Phonological variability in the esl of students: a case study of Mikuini secondary school, Machakos District
Itumo, Joshua Mulinge
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The present study examined phonological variability in the spoken English of secondary school students in a co-curricular Kenyan secondary school in Machakos District. From the onset, this research purposed to do the following: identify and describe phonological variation in the spoken English used by Mikuini Secondary School students; use the social network construct to describe the density in relation to their Christian denominational leanings and to describe the correlation between phonological variability and the independent social variables of social networks, gender and contextual style. The network sampling approach was used to select a group of twenty-four students who related or differed in terms of denominational affiliation and gender. The phonological data elicited from these subjects were classified into four categories depending on the formality of the speech context. Eleven phonological variables were observed in the articulation of consonants. These formed the dependent variables which were correlated with the independent social variables of social networks, gender and contextual style. Data from the four different contexts were tape recorded. To be able to identify and describe phonological variability, we were guided by descriptions of English phonetics and phonology as outlined by Roach (1998) and Wells (1982). In line with the Labovian paradigm, tokens for each of the variables were identified and their phonetic realizations quantified. The emerging patterns of phonological variability were correlated with social variables. First, the phonological variables were stated and their variants described. Data vi on the subjects’ social networks were then presented. Using the Spearman’s Rank correlation, the data were correlated with the data on phonological variables. From the data analysis, it was noted that the CU girls who had high network density scores also tended to have high scores for two phonetic variants (r2): [r] and (Ø):[h]. It was also noted that the CU girls used variant (r2): [r] as a marker of their speech while variant (Ø):[h] was seen as a case of hypercorrection. As relates to gender and phonological variation, it was generally noted that girls approximated the standard variants more than boys did. Girls also tended to ‘hypercorrect’ more than boys did. Girls were also seen to favour those variants that attracted some prestige whereas the boys led in those variants which seemed to carry some social stigma. Concerning speech contexts, it was observed that informants varied their speech depending on the formality of the context. This variation was statistically significant. Different variables were observed to pattern differently depending on the speech context. This research underscores the need to describe different varieties of Kenyan English. It augments others that recommend the codification and adoption of a standard Kenyan English variety. This variety, when described, should be used and taught in Kenyan schools as opposed to the ‘exonormative’ RP which is currently the recommended standard.