An investigation into the adoption and use of sheng for advertising and public awareness among profit and nonprofit organisations in Nairobi, Kenya
Kariuki, Annah Wanjiru
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The present study focuses on the use of a linguistic phenomenon in Kenya called Sheng. Sheng has been perceived as a variety restricted in its domains of use and for a long time seen as a language of the urban youth in Nairobi. However, the shift in the realm of communication in advertising and awareness campaigns in Kenya, from Standard English and Kiswahili to a non-standard, peer language Sheng has become evident. This raises the question as to whether Sheng is no longer a stigmatized variety but a necessary marketing tool in the 21st Century. The researcher therefore investigates the linguistic change in the Kenyan context of print advertising and creating awareness. In Kenya, today corporate companies, non-governmental organizations and government bodies have shifted to communicating in Sheng to reach their target audience. The study identifies and analyzes the meanings of Sheng lexical items and phrases used in advertisements in Nairobi Central Business District and then discusses the linguistic strategies found in the advertisements. The researcher further discusses the communicative impact of selected Sheng adverts. The discussion is based on Speech Act Theory, the tenet of intentional communication and Generative Lexicon Theory, which provides a formal account for logical polysemy whereby a word gives rise to different meanings in different contexts. The speech act theory demonstrates the communicative impact of selected Sheng advertisements. The study may be useful to marketers especially from a strategic perspective, educators, linguists and other professionals as it will add knowledge to the communicative function of Sheng. The study adopted a descriptive research design. The study targeted the marketing or advertising officers of selected businesses and the consumers who buy and use products advertised in Sheng. Data for this research was collected through structured interviews, questionnaires, observation notes and content analysis of advertisement materials such as brochures and billboards. It was then analyzed, and summarized using qualitative methods. The analyzed data is described in a narrative. The research findings reveal that: different linguistic strategies are used in the advertisements, Sheng adverts carry multiple meanings, and the adverts have both a direct and an indirect purpose. The direct purpose is easily recognizable and emphasizes the benefits of the advertised brand while the indirect has a hidden meaning that is not easily recognizable. This hidden message includes information on the costs and other liabilities to the consumer of the advertised brand and how the advertiser stands to benefit from selling the brand.