Language loss and language decay of Malawi's indigenous languages

  • Themba Moyo General Linguistics Department, University of Zululand, Private Bag X1001, KwaDlangezwa, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


This article focuses on the decay of almost all of Malawi's indigenous languages with the exception of ciCewa. The languages facing loss and decay have been suppressed, neglected and not developed, particularly since Malawi attained her independence in 1964. This is a crucial matter in issues of national unity, group identity, language choice and community culture, all of which impact considerably on nationhood, state democracy, equality in language use and in the general development of a country.
CiCewa alone, former president Dr Banda's home dialect that he promoted to a national language, received presidential support for its development. This article contents that, in effect, the rest of Malawi's indigenous languages are facing considerable loss and decay with regard to their development. This is particularly in print, where none of them appear as instructional languages in early education, mass communication or in literary publications such as in novels, short stories, poems, plays, etc. This is from 1968's presidential decree (Banda's), which elevated ciCewa only as a national language of symbolic status and banned the use of all other indigenous languages for functional purposes at regional and national levels. The article concludes by observing that there is need for equitable recognition of linguistic diversity and development of all languages. This would act as a unifying force for the overall development of the country's national life.

S/ern Af Linguistics & Applied Language Stud: 2003 21(3): 127-139)

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614