South African Journal of African Languages

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The indigenisation of English in Chenjera Hove’s novels Bones and Ancestors: A case of lexical and semantic features of chiShona-English

Maxwell Kadenge


The issue of the indigenisation and ownership of the English language in southern Africa has been a subject of considerable empirical and theoretical discussion in current linguistic and sociolinguistic literature. One of the domains in which English has been ‘Africanised’ is in creative writing. This article presents a linguistic and sociolinguistic analysis of the indigenisation of English in Chenjerai Hove’s novels, namely, Ancestors (1996) and Bones (2001). It specifically discusses the use of lexico-semantic borrowing and transcreation of proverbs and idioms in these novels. The main argument of this article is that the purpose of using indigenised forms of English in Hove’s novels is to communicate Shona cultural values and sensibilities by means of a variety of English that has assimilated to the cultural realities of the Shona people. While the language used in the novels remains accessible to the outside world it also attempts to do justice to the experiences of the chiShona-speaking people. Like Chinua Achebe, and many other postcolonial writers, Hove indigenises the English language by implanting some ‘Africanisms’ in his novels in a bid to convey culture-specific realities such as indigenous foods, traditional games, flora and fauna, traditional dances and rituals. The article identifies the socio-cultural domains in which chiShona lexical items are used. In addition, it discusses the socio-cultural meanings of selected proverbs, idioms and metaphors used in the novels under investigation.

South African Journal of African Languages 2012, 32(1): 11–16

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