Language and Cross-Cultural Communication: Lexical Variation among Initiated and Uninitiated Tugen Speakers
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Different societies have different rules/norms governing communication. What works in one society may fail to work in another. This scenario raises a host of fundamental questions: What happens when individuals from different cultural groups interact? Is there is a possibility that miscommunication may occur in the course of communication? If so what is the nature of miscommunication and how does it affect social relations of individuals or groups? In what ways can miscommunication be minimized during intercultural communication? This paper explores cross cultural communication within an African context. Specifically the paper seeks to unearth the lexical variations that exist in the language of two cultural groups in Baringo County, Kenya. Two cohorts of Tugen speakers (the initiated and uninitiated) form the sample of this study. Tugen is a dialect of the Kalenjin language. In order to graduate into adulthood Tugens have to undergo a traditional form of circumcision. During circumcision, the initiates are taught a new register, which serves to distinguish them from the uninitiated members of the community. This paper therefore investigates the speech of initiated and uninitiated speakers of Tugen and unearths a number of lexical items that vary. After interviewing 80 purposively sampled subjects the paper established the existence of systematic variation in lexical items from two cultural groups in Tugen. It is apparent from the results presented here that a better understanding of a group’s culture enriches the understanding of cross cultural communication. Therefore, knowledge of existing variations in Tugen and other languages/dialects minimizes incidences of miscommunication. Since effects of miscommunication are often very costly, it is therefore important that more studies be conducted in this area. The world has become a global village and cross cultural communication is a now a daily engagement for many of us who live in the modern world.