Kiswahili Dialects Endangered: The Case of Kiamu and Kimvita
Many commentators of Kiswahili language always indicate that Kiswahili has many dialects. Some say that Kiswahili has over 15 dialects. However, very few studies have been done to ascertain whether these dialects are still spoken, especially in the face of the onslaught of standard Kiswahili and other dominant languages in the Kiswahili speaking areas such as English and other local languages. By focusing on two Kiswahili dialects (Kiamu and Kimvita) and using a quantitative language use and attitude analysis, this paper observes that Kiswahili dialects are threatened with extinction not only, ironically, by the onslaught of standard Kiswahili, but also from other dominant languages such as English and emerging social dialects such as Sheng. This paper investigates the possibility that speakers of Kiswahili dialects may be shifting to standard Kiswahili and other dominant and emerging languages such as English and Sheng leading to possible death of the dialects. Using Fishman's Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale, Landweer's Indicators of Ethnolinguistic Vitality and UNESCO's Language Vitality and Endangerment Assessment Guidelines, this paper investigates the vitality of Kiamu and Kimvita dialects of Kiswahili in Kenya and arrives at the conclusion that Kiamu and Kimvita dialects and, by extension, other Kiswahili dialects in Kenya are critically endangered and are likely to die in the near future. Assumptions can also be made that some of them are already dead.