Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 10, No 1-2 (2016)

Reflections on Ethiopian youths and Yarada K’wank’wa: Language practices and ideologies

Andrea Hollington
Issued Date: 4 Jun 2016


This paper seeks to investigate the role of language ideologies in relation to the Ethiopian youth language Yarada K’wank’wa. The study of African youth languages, which has increased in popularity over the past two decades, has concentrated mainly on strategies of language manipulation and the varieties’ functions of marking identity, which have both been identified as important aspects of these language practices (cf. Kießling and Mous, 2004; Nassenstein and Hollington, 2015). Both of these issues are very much informed and shaped by underlying language ideologies. Irvine and Gal (2000) focus on the recognition and representation of linguistic differences in language ideologies. Linguistic differentiation is at the core of language ideologies and practices of speakers of (African) youth languages; defining one’s identity in opposition to some (imagined) ‘other’ is often reflected in linguistic images and practices (ibid.). This paper seeks to shed light on the ideologies of speakers of Yarada K’wank’wa, a youth language of Ethiopia, and looks at ideologies which rely on the concepts of association (solidarity) and dissociation (differentiation). These ideologies shape the (linguistic) practices of the speakers; they can display, for instance, linguistic differentiation in terms of manipulative strategies. However, ideologies do not always match practices and linguistic realities. Discussing the case of Yarada K’wank’wa in this regard clarifies the complex relationship between language ideologies and practices. This paper will do so by drawing on new empirical data, emphasizing the role of language ideologies and linguistic practices in Yarada K’wank’wa and its broader social context. This discussion may have implications for the understanding of other (African) youth languages.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.v10i1-2.27928


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