Language change as observed in the names used to refer to the months of the year in Ekegusii
Morara, Jacqueline Nyaboe
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The purpose of the study was to identify and describe the change in the naming of the months of the year in Ekegusii. In doing so, the study examined the change in language in relation to cultural change in the Gusii community. The study purposed to document the meanings associated with the ‘native’ terms that are used to refer to the months of the year and describe language change by providing ‘new’ terms that are in use. The study made use of the Linguistic Relativity Theory formulated by Edward Sapir and his student Benjamin Lee Whorf, the Variationist Theory by William Labov and the Speech Accommodation Theory by Howard Giles to account for the change in language at the lexical level. The Linguistic Relativity Theory is concerned with the possibility that man’s view of his environment may be conditioned by his language. The theory brings out two views: that the society has an effect on language and that the environment is reflected in language. This was used in the present study to explain the relationship between the ‘native’ terms used to refer to the months of the year in Ekegusii and the Gusii culture. The Speech Accommodation Theory was developed to account for ways in which speakers modified their language during interactions with addressees from other linguistic groups. The theory was used to find out motivations behind speakers choosing particular terms from available options to refer to the months of the year in Ekegusii. The Variationist Theory was used to investigate co-variation between linguistic and social variables. The study used questionnaires, an audio recorder and interview schedules to interview informants who provided information on the ‘native’ and ‘new’ terms used to refer to the months of the year in Ekegusii. The number of respondents targeted was thirty and were sampled using the snowball and purposive sampling techniques. The data collected was analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. The study findings revealed that there were lexical changes in reference to the months of the year in Ekegusii leading to two categories of names: ‘native’ terms and ‘new’ terms. It found out that there was a correlation between the lexical terms used to refer to the months of the year in Ekegusii with social variables of age and educational qualifications. The study also derived the causes of language change using the lexical terms. The study, therefore, concluded that the two categories of lexical terms should be documented together with their meanings. The information gathered from the study would be useful in enriching the already existing literature on the ‘native’ terms by providing meanings associated with the ‘native’ terms and document the ‘new’ terms with the view to accounting for language change. The study contributes to the field of historical (diachronic) linguistics and related studies may find the information it provides relevant for reference. The information could also enrich Ekegusii lexicon and contribute to review of the existing literature.