oa Alternation - Lexicalization in Sheng

Volume 11, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1023-1757



This is an investigation into the way lexemes are created and how meaning (hereafter referred to as lexicalization) is encoded in Sheng. This unstable language variety has existed in Kenya for almost two decades. Various theories exist about its origins. For instance, Osinde (1986) and Abdulaziz & Osinde (1997) suggest that Sheng emerged as a peer youth code in the low socio-economic eastern suburbs of Nairobi in the 1970s. Kembo-Sure (1992: 26-27) claims that Sheng arose in the low-class estates of Nairobi where children coined a code to conceal their secrets from parents. Mazrui & Mphande (1990) and Mazrui (1995) suggest that a Sheng-like code came to exist in Nairobi in the 1930s among pickpockets. Further, Spyropolous (1987:130) posits that Sheng was used in the 1950s but became pronounced in the early 1970s. Regardless of this lack of consensus on the origin of Sheng, it is accepted that Sheng ""sounds"" like Kiswahili (Ngesa 2002) but has a distinct and an unstable vocabulary.

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