Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

The Influence of Multilingualism, Christianity and Education in the Formation of Bakalanga Identity

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

The Influence of Multilingualism, Christianity and Education in the Formation of Bakalanga Identity

Article excerpt


Unlike many onomastics studies which focus on meanings of names and circumstances surrounding the way they are assigned, this study uses names as a prism for investigating the effects of multilingualism, history, education and Christianity on the Bakalanga naming practices and identity formation. The data used in the study indicates that the names used by the Bakalanga ethnic group are drawn from various languages (Ikalanga, Setswana, Shona, Ndebele, English) and reflect various socio-cultural and religious practices found in the region. The names point to a cosmopolitan and transitory society whose names and identities are very much responsive to changes in language use, socio-cultural and historical links and connections. Such an investigation and analysis of names is meant to further elucidate the far reaching effects of multilingualism which include bilingualism, acculturation, language attitude and shift. Further, the study is meant to present names as evidence or a map of a community's historical, social, cultural and linguistic course.

Keywords: Personal Names, Ikalanga, Christianity, Multilingualism, Education, African identity

1. Introduction: who are the Bakalanga?

The Bakalanga, who are the second largest ethnic and linguistic group in Botswana, have a population of about 150 000 people. This number represents only 8% of the population when compared to the dominant Setswana speaking ethnic groups which make up about 78% of the population (Botswana Government 2003). Bakalanga are mostly found along the Zimbabwe - Botswana border in the entire North East District and some parts of the Central District of Botswana in the villages of Masunga, Mapoka, Mosojane, Tutume and Zwenshambe, to name a few. The ancestors of the Bakalanga are believed to be the Balilima and Varozvi of Zimbabwe and the Bapedi and Bakaa of Transvaal (Tlou and Campbell 1997, p.128).The Bakalanga are actually a mixture of people from distinct ethnic groups which include Rolong, Pedi, Senete, Shona, Nswazwi, and Wumbe who came together three hundred years ago and settled in Botswana. They speak Ikalanga, a Niger Congo language. The dialect of Ikalanga that is mostly found in Botswana is called Lilima.

Though in certain Setswana ethnic groups circles the Bakalanga are perceived as foreigners and less authentic Batswana (Botswana natives), see Nyamnjoh (2006), over the years they have had lots of social integrations with Setswana ethnic groups through inter marriage and mobility to the extent that the Ikalanga and Setswana ethnic and cultural identities have become blurred. In fact, most Bakalanga are Ikalanga-Setswana bilinguals with the educated elite speaking English. The assimilation of the minority Bakalanga group into the dominant Setswana and English groups is imminent given the small population of Bakalanga and the statuses of national and official language that Setswana and English enjoy unabated in a country where Ikalanga is confined to home use and intra ethnic communication only.

The shifttowards Setswana and English can be explained by Giles and Powesland's (1997, p.234) accommodation theory which suggests that an individual seeking social approval can induce another to evaluate them favourably by reducing the dissimilarities between them. According to this theory, linguistic adjustments can be made in a drive to approximate one's language if they are regarded as socially desirable or if a speaker wishes to identify with them or demonstrate good will towards them. Giles and Powesland hypothesize that people who are high on a scale of need for social approval are more likely to accommodate than those with a low need.

1.1 What is a personal name?

Mphande (2006, p.104) states that among many African cultures a name tells a lot about the individual that it signifies, the language from which it is drawn and the society that ascribes it. He argues that a name may indicate the collective history and life experiences of the people surrounding the individual. …

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