Exploring Ethnically-Marked Varieties of Kenyan English: Intonation and Associated Attitudes


Dr. Billian Otundo

Research Area:


Intonation patterns in second language varieties are influenced by first language patterns as well as utterance type. Hereinafter, I present evidence of intonational variation of two ethnic varieties of Kenyan English in their utterances of statements and questions. I further establish whether Kenyans can identify with the two varieties and the attitudes manifested towards them. From the more than forty-two ethnic groups (regionally demarcated) of Kenya, I utilise Bukusu and Nandi, whose intonation proved maximally distinct. I adopt acoustic analysis and use Praat software to depict nuclear accent, accent types and boundary tones. I combine tone and break indices (ToBI) and intonational variation in English (IViE) for prosodic annotations with the autosegmentalmetrical (AM) theory of intonation. I use IBM-SPSS and MS Excel to obtain statistics on the attitude elicitation questionnaire. This study is intriguing because it provides evidence of how aspects of one’s native language are systematically applied to a different system. Moreover, it adds weight to “a full acoustic analysis of English in Kenya thus contributing to the future of codification of the variety” (Hoffmann 2011) particularly in formation of ethnic varieties of Kenyan English in the “nativization” (Schneider 2007) process. Moreover, phonological cognition enables “listeners to cope with variability in the speech of others” (Foulkes & Docherty 1999).