Dahl’s Law and The Luyia Law in Luyia Dialects Spoken in Western Kenya

  • L Kisembe


The Luyia people identify themselves as a group that uses the language Luyia. However, there are significant linguistic differences among the speakers, a situation described as the existence of Luyia dialects. The sound realizations differ in each variety, a condition that the Luyia speakers themselves are aware of. Hence they talk of speakers of other varieties as having a characteristic articulation of a particular sound. These differences are a result of the way in which each Luyia variety has developed from the proto-language, Proto- Luyia. The Luyia varieties show a high degree of correspondence at all levels, but differ one from another to the extent that a separate treatment of each variety could be justifiable. At the phonological level for instance, a majority of the phonological  correspondences appear to be regular and predictable. However, there exist some sound differences that are quite distinct because of processes such as Bantu Spirantization1, Dahl's Law2 and the Luyia Law3, which operate differently. Therefore, attempts at a rigid classification of Luyia varieties based on the status of these processes are likely to fail. The results indicate that Bukusu, Kabras, Wanga, Xaayo, Marachi, Saamia and Kisa attest Bantu Spirantization. These varieties represent the northern and central varieties of the geographical classification of Luyia varieties. Dahl's Law occurred across Luyia, but its results are complicated by the later application of the Luyia Law that obscures the results of Dahl's Law. The trigger consonants for Dahl's Law in Luyia include p, t, and k, which affect p, t, and k as target consonants in Logooli, and affect only t in Xaayo, Marachi and Saamia. The Luyia Law is attested across Luyia except in Logooli where it is not attested and in Saamia where it is not uniform. Saamia shows the Luyia Law for *p, *k and *g, but not for *t.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1813-2227