Verbal Extensions in Sheng: An Examination of Variation in Form and Function

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Kariuki, Annah
Gibson, Hannah
Jelpke, Tom
Ochieng, Merceline
Poeta, Teresa
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Linguistics Vanguard
This paper investigates verbal extensions in Sheng, a youth language originating in Nairobi, Kenya. Sheng has received scholarly attention since the 1980s, primarily with a focus on its sociolinguistic traits. Our study aims to advance the linguistic description of Sheng and its morphosyntax by investigating verbal extensions in Sheng. Specifically, we look at the causative, applicative, reciprocal, and passive suffixes, as they are applied to coined and metathesized verbs and verbs which have their origins in Swahili, English, or Gikuyu. We present examples from speakers in Kibera and Umoja neighbourhoods of Nairobi. We find that, while many of the extensions can be applied to elicited verbs, such examples were often considered odd by speakers. In some cases, our consultants suggested alternative strategies, typically employing the use of periphrastic constructions or different verb forms. The use of verbal extensions sometimes resulted in changes in interpretation, requiring us to re-consider the function of these extensions in Sheng more broadly.
verbal extensions, applicative, causative, passive, reciprocal, youth language
Kariuki, A., Gibson, H., Jelpke, T., Ochieng, M., & Poeta, T. (2024). Verbal extensions in Sheng: an examination of variation in form and function. Linguistics Vanguard, (0).