Linguistic Marginalization - Understanding the Process and Effects on Development Capacities

Research project
Inactive research
Project period
2014 - 2018
Project owner
Department of Languages and Literatures

Short description

A socio-linguistic study linking the use of language with development issues. The project focused on code switching, i.e., switching between Ngoni and Swahili in the Ruvuma region in south-west Tanzania.


Swahili, which is used in formal contexts and which, since independence, has been promoted as a language of communication across ethnic and linguistic boundaries, has a growing place in Tanzanian society, even in rural communities and within the family. It is estimated that approximately 95 per cent of the adult population speak Swahili.

Language use can be an important marker of identity in encounters between different cultures. How language is used therefore has a symbolic weight, and identity is shaped by these symbolic systems. Switching between Ngoni and Swahili can be seen as an indication that Ngoni as a language is under threat or in the process of disappearing, and as a communication strategy. An important question therefore is whether code switching shows that the Ngoni population can no longer express themselves in their mother tongue, or whether it denotes group membership or identity. Are the Ngoni people losing their identity in this process or are other identities perhaps being created?