Code switching in business transactions: a case study of linguistic repertoire in Maasai market in Nairobi Kenya
Erastus, Kanana Fridah
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The study investigates use in a multilingual urban setting in Maasai Market in Nairobi Kenya. It outlines the codes used in the market; the advantages of using different codes in such a setting and the factors that influence the choice of these codes. In addition, the study examines the influence of variables of sex, age and race in code selection. All this is unraveled through an analysis of spontaneous speech tape-recorded from the buyers and sellers. The researcher tape-recorded speech from the respondents. The tape-recorded data was transcribed on paper and the extracts from the transcribed text were analysed based on the tenets of Speech Accommodation Theory and the Markedness Model. In the analysis of the factors that influence Code Switching, the two models above were used. The theories explain the communicative intent on the part of the speaker. The Speech Accommodation Theory explains the motivational factors for Code Switching while Markedness Model accounts for the normative factors that influence switching between languages. It was observed that speakers switch codes in an attempt to converge or diverge from their interlocutors. Speakers converged when they desired to communicate effectively; when they desired social integration and approval from their interlocutors and when they aimed at maximizing profit. On the other hand, divergence was employed when the vendors wished to retain all their clients and also maximize profit. The rapid back and forth switches were prompted by the unmarked, marked or the exploratory choices. However, each of the codes has specific functions and social symbolism. There were advantages of using one code over the other; code selection was aimed at maximizing profit. The analysis of the data revealed that in Maasai Market, Kiswahili is used to connote brotherhood and neutrality among the Africans; English is the language of the elite and the working class and thus associated with the affluent people, in monetary terms; Sheng is used to assert social identity and for mutual exclusiveness among the teenagers. The Local Languages connote ethnicity and solidarity. Three variables were studied which included: race, sex and age of the respondents. These variables were seen to influence code choices differently. Race was significant when giving prices among Africans, Europeans and others. The Europeans and others given higher than the Africans. Women and those aged between 21-40 were addressed in English or through Code Switching since they were considered status conscious and the working class respectively. These variables strongly influenced the way interlocutors chose linguistic items in a particular transaction.