Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The International Status of Kiswahili: The Parameters of Braj Kachru's Model of World Englishes

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The International Status of Kiswahili: The Parameters of Braj Kachru's Model of World Englishes

Article excerpt

Introduction

Kiswahili is an indigenous African language whose origin, according to many researchers, is the coast of Eastern Africa. Traditionally, it was regarded as the language of the coastal communities of Kenya and Tanzania. It remained the language of the people of East African coast for a long time. It is argued that the early visitors and traders, such as the Arabs and Persians who came to the East African coast, used to speak with the natives in Kiswahili. Their interactions are well documented in the Periplus of Erythrean Sea which is said to be the earliest known document recounting the prehistory of East African coast. The fishermen of this region and the clove farmers from Oman are said to be the first ones to extensively use Kiswahili as a lingua franca. In the twentieth Century, Kiswahili was readily accepted in Kenya and Tanzania where it has played key roles of national development (Mukuthuria 2006:154). Its rise, development and spread in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the rest of Eastern, Central, Southern parts of Africa and elsewhere in the world has been sufficiently dealt with by Whitley (1969), Khamisi (1974), Chiraghdin & Mnyampala (1977), Heine (1990), Mbaabu (1991), Mazrui & Mazrui (1995), Chimerah (1998) and Mulokozi (2004) among others. Mulokozi (2004:1-2) outlines the following as being the factors that assisted the development and spread of Kiswahili in Tanzania and thereafter the rest of Eastern Africa: the maritime trade; the caravan trade into the interior; the rise of Zanzibar as East Africa's commercial capital; the Bantu cultural complex, with its affinity to the Swahili complex, and its cultural and political tolerance; the relative cultural and linguistic homogeneity of the Swahili communities; the factor of Islam; colonial language policy, especially by the Germans in Tanzania; Christian missionary activity, including alphabetization, book printing and publishing; mass media; cultural activities such as music, games, sports and ceremonies; economic and social change, including urbanization and new infrastructure; national politics; the school system.

Kiswahili scholars and promoters especially in Tanzania and Kenya have always argued that Kiswahili is the undisputed lingua franca of Eastern and Central Africa. They have also claimed that the language is spreading fast across Africa and beyond hence gaining the status of an international language. However, the real international status of Kiswahili is yet to be put to test objectively. .Our aim here is to contribute to this objective examination by subjecting it to the analysis of Braj Kachru's Model of World Englishes (MWE).

Braj Kachru's Model of World Englishes

Braj Bihari Kachru (1932-2016) was a linguist born in India who coined the term "World English", the Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (named in 1992). Kachru carried out extensive research on the status and use of English as an international language, and in 1985, conceptualized and developed the Model of World Englishes with which he used to illustrate the status and use of English in different countries of the world. Kachru's impressive profile includes his tenure as head of the University of Illinois Department of Linguistics [1968-79], director of the Division of English as an International Language [1985-91]; director of the Center for Advanced Study [June 1996-January 2000]; 1978 director of the Linguistic Institute of the Linguistic Society of America; 1984 president of American Association of Applied Linguistics). His privileged position and passion for language enabled him to focus on the historical context of English, the status of the language and the functions in the various regions (Kilickaya 2009:35). Kachru's model comprised of three concentric circles of languages: The Inner Circle, the Outer Circle and the Expanding Circle. Kachru assigned the Inner Circle to the native speakers of English comprising of countries such as the United Kingdom, United States of America, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Ireland. …

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