Ethnicity, Language, and Identity in Kenya

Main Article Content

Nathan Oyori Ogechi


This article unravels the manipulation of language and nonlinguistic communication strategies in political and sports discourses to negotiate various identities in Kenya. Kenya is multilingual with over 42 stable and unstable languages1 whose users are, historically, “forced” into one country. Through a historical sociolinguistic approach, the article analyses code choice, stereotypes, jokes and nicknames for ethnic and other identity negotiation. It shows that negative ethnicity based on “we” versus “they” dichotomies enhances ethnic cleavages but Sheng pervades ethnic boundaries and politicians use it to endear and identify themselves with the youth. The present article calls for responsible language use.

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How to Cite
OGECHI, Nathan Oyori. Ethnicity, Language, and Identity in Kenya. Modern Africa: Politics, History and Society, [S.l.], v. 7, n. 1, p. 111-135, july 2019. ISSN 2570-7558. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 05 mar. 2021. doi: