Departmental Bulletin Paper Mombasa's Swahili-Based 'Coasti Slang' in a Super-Diverse Space: Languages in Contact on the Beach


37 ( 3 )  , pp.117 - 143 , 2016-09 , The Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University
The Kenyan coast, already linguistically super-diverse, has witnessed the emergence of a new coastal language practice, 'Coasti Slang', which arose under conditions of 'partial acquisition' (cf. Lipski, 2002) of German as a Swahili-based genderized style among male multilingual sex workers. It was later adopted by others, who began to manipulate this language variety and expand their repertoires, turning the new style into a business language spoken along the waterfront. As it is currently used, Coasti Slang allows 'beach boys', beach vendors, hotel workers, sex workers and fishermen to deliberately conceal certain aspects of their communications for business purposes while integrating acquired terms from tourist languages (e.g., German, French, Italian) into this new fluid practice. Words from coastal Bantu languages have also entered the language, broadening the community of practice. Today, this language practice draws on speakers' indexical linguistic biographies, reflecting globalized creativity. Coasti Slang is thus neither a youth language nor merely a secret language, but a mobile and fluid practice that involves linguistic manipulation, originally linked to the gendered performance of linguistic masculinity among 'beach boys', and from then on increasingly used in coastal petty trade. The present paper is the first to shed light on the use of linguistic strategies in Coasti Slang, speakers' acquisition patterns and repertoires, the surrounding linguistic landscapes along the Kenyan coast, and the continued spread of this variety among speakers of all genders and professions.

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