Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


African Studies Seminar: Language change & evolution: dynamism of Sheng, a variety of Kenyan Swahili

21 November 2019, 12:30 pm–2:00 pm

chege cithiora

The UCL African Studies Seminar welcomes Chege Githiora (SOAS Languages, Cultures and Linguistics) for the fourth seminar of this autumn term: ‘Language and State Identity: The Case of Swahili in Kenya and Tanzania’. Seminars will take place every other Thursday this term.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to





Hélène Neveu Kringelbach


IAS Forum
Ground floor, South Wing, UCL
United Kingdom

Languages evolve and change through internal dynamics, and through contact with others, and Swahili is no exception. In fact, Swahili has undergone dramatic changes over the centuries with influences from Persian, Arabic, English, German and Portuguese. Sheng, a variety of Kenyan Swahili carries on these dynamics by adopting modern varieties of English, indigenous Kenyan languages and morphosyntactic restructuring. In this presentation I discuss how Sheng has continued this trajectory, propelled by a richly multilingual dynamics of Nairobi city, to morph into a national vernacular and identity marker.

All welcome. Please note that there may be photography and/or audio recording at some events and that admission is on a first come first served basis. Please follow this FAQ link for more information. All our events are free but you can support the IAS here.

This seminar series is convened by the African Studies Research Centre/IAS:

View the full Autumn seminar programme

About the Speaker

Chege Githiora is Professor of Linguistics and African Languages at SOAS. He is author of Sheng: Rise of a Kenyan Swahili Vernacular (James Currey, 2018), and Afro-Mexicans: Discourse of Race and Identity in the African Diaspora (AWP 2008), among other publications.