‘Urban Vernaculars’ in Search of Native Speakers: The Case of ciTumbuka Newscasters on the National Radio in Malawi.

  • T Moyo


This article is primarily concerned with ciTumbuka as one of Malawi’s official languages, also the predominant language in northern Malawi. It argues that while a language of wider communication has continued to form the basis of most contemporary language policies in post-colonial Africa, ciTumbuka like other languages in Anglophone African states,
is a product of colonial linguistics. The chosen or designated languages or their dialects were designed to suit colonial masters’ grand designs of evangelisation and colonilisation. It becomes misleading to conceptualise, primodialise and present indigenous languages
as if they were indeed authentic products of precolonial Africa. This study questions the continued inadvertent entrenchment of these past legacies into post-colonial Africa, which has resulted in much confusion, with the emergence of ‘urban vernaculars.’ Listeners
on radio Malawi have seriously questioned the authentication of speech forms of the ciTumbuka aired in the news broadcasters and continue to raise the social legitimacy of the so-called indigenous ciTumbuka. Finally, the need for the standardisation of ciTumbuka along with the other official indigenous languages in the country is raised for use in early education as well as for the general public usage.

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eISSN: 1813-2227