Language shift among the Tonga of Mkoka? Assessing ethnolinguistic vitality in Gokwe South

  • Shumirai Nyota


This paper examines the ethnolinguistic vitality of the Tonga community of Mkoka in Gokwe South, with a focus on the Tonga language. The Tonga in Gokwe South have received little attention from researchers, if any, when compared to the other Tonga communities of Zimbabwe, who like them were displaced from the Zambezi valley when the Kariba dam claimed their homes in the 1950s. The research focuses on the way the Tonga of Mkoka in Gokwe South use their mother-tongue, Tonga and the second language, Shona, in the primary home/family domain and the secondary domains of language. Results show that Tonga vitality is based on social status, demographic and informal support variables, while its economic, socio-historical and formal support vitality is very low. In terms of language preferences, the Tonga mainly use their L1 in the family/home domain with interlocutors who are family, friends and neighbours for everyday language use and in social activities in their environments, while for the secondary language use domains, they shift to Shona, the economically more powerful language in the area. Shona was, however, found to be creeping into some Tonga homes, but reasons for this encroachment could not be concluded in this paper.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2305-1159
print ISSN: 0257-2117