Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 10, No 3 (2016)

Languages in East Africa: Policies, practices and perspectives

Bebwa Isingoma
Issued Date: 20 Jan 2017


The study provides an account of the prevailing linguistic situation in the three traditional countries of the East African Community (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda), since they have more or less the same colonial and postcolonial history as well as being territorially coterminous with each other – a landmark phenomenon that has a bearing on the dynamics of the postcolonial linguistic landscape in these countries. The study examines the circumstances that underlie the triglossic linguistic situation in these countries, i.e. a situation where there are three languages with distinct but complementary functions (namely English, Kiswahili and languages of intra-ethnic communication). While some of the dimensions of the linguistic situation are similar in the three countries, others are different. Entangled in the quagmire of vacillating decisions on language policies, East Africa has had to grapple with the question of language choice for some time. The study examines the language policies that promote or relegate, at varying degrees, the languages of the three countries. Generally, while Kenya and Uganda are making considerable strides in promoting languages other than English and Kiswahili, Tanzania, on the other hand, has stuck to its guns in relation to stifling the development of such languages.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.v10i3.27401


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