Accepted Paper:

Rural and urban metaphors in Sheng (Kenya) and Tsotsitaal (South Africa)  


Ellen Hurst (University of Cape Town)
Fridah Erastus (Kenyatta University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at metaphor in Tsotsitaal (South Africa) and Sheng (Kenya), to illustrate how urban youth draw from both modern/ European and archaic/ rural paradigms and languages in their linguistic performances.

Paper long abstract:

Research into youth languages in Africa has focused primarily on urban forms springing up in the large urban centres such as Nairobi (Kenya) and Johannesburg (South Africa). Language practices such as Sheng from Kenya and Tsotsitaal from South Africa have received significant attention in terms of the multilingual resources drawn on by youth in their performance. However, recent research has indicated that these practices are also prevalent in what could be considered as 'rural' areas. Authors such as Kioko (2015) and Hurst (2017) have considered the spread of these forms from urban centres into rural areas; simultaneously, Hurst (2016) suggests that urban youth language also draws on rural practices in its resources.

Metaphor is an important aspect of these youth language practices, and can highlight the interchange between rural and urban language, as well as the types of indigenous knowledge drawn on in the practices of urban youth. This paper will present data on Zulu-based Tsotsitaal from Kwa-Zulu Natal, Xhosa-based Tsotsitaal from Cape Town, and Swahili-based Sheng from Nairobi, to illustrate how urban youth do not only draw from modern/ European paradigms and languages in their linguistic performances, but also draw from archaic and rural forms to create layers of meaning and indexicality, in their constructions of African modernity.

Panel P172
African indigenous languages as urban youth languages: the rural-urban exchange