Zimbabwean English: A sociophonological exploration1

  • Maxwell Kadenge


The worldwide emergence of new Englishes and their subtypes known as African Englishes has been a subject of considerable theoretical and descriptive discussion. Although the variety of English that is spoken in Zimbabwe has distinct linguistic features and displays the key properties of new Englishes, it has not received significant attention from both theoretical and applied linguists. This study addresses this issue by presenting a sociophonological exploration of the hypothesis that the variety of English that is spoken in Zimbabwe is a type of new Englishes. This article starts by examining the sociolinguistic status and ‘ownership’ (Widdowson, 1994:384; Chisanga & Kamwangamalu, 1997:90) of the English language in Zimbabwe. This is followed by an exploration of the phonological processes that are operative in the spoken English of L1 Shona speakers such as substitution and underdifferentiation of monophthongal vowel phonemes and monophthongization of diphthongs and triphthongs through glide epenthesis and glide formation. The results reveal that these processes reduce the 25 English vowels to five monophthongs [i, e, a, o, u]. These processes are part of the hallmarks of African Englishes, which have not yet been comprehensively studied. This study fits well within the context of increasing interest in the description of African Englishes.

S.Afr.J.Afr.Lang., 2010, 1

Author Biography

Maxwell Kadenge
Department of Linguistics, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag X3, Wits 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2305-1159
print ISSN: 0257-2117