The following analysis is a feasibility study for a research project on ‘English in East Africa: an independent African means of communication?’, which is the contribution of English Linguistics to the Special Research Programme (SFB) on ‘Identity in Africa’ carried out at the University of Bayreuth. I will therefore briefly explain the background to this study in relation to the notion of identity, before explaining the methodology and problems of the analysis and the results of this microsociolinguistic study on the co-variation of pronunciation, social and contextual variables.
English and Kenyan identities
The basic assumption of this research project is that attempts to define specific African national identities must rest on various distinct concepts of cultural identity as well as on various overlapping regional identities. In this overall framework language is seen as a means of expressing, together with a message, a personal and/or a group identity, which is chosen by the speaker and interpreted by the hearer. In modern ethno-psychology personal identity is often seen as the sum of heterogeneous identities. Thus if a market woman in a market in Nyeri responds in English to a white man's question in Swahili, she expresses part of her identity, just as when she talks in Kikuyu to her market neighbours. Similarly, a Luo hotel manager may talk in basilectal English to his Kikuyu cleaners and in acrolectal English to his foreign guests.