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Languages in competition in Rwanda: Who is winning on the linguistic market?

Journal article
Authors Tove Rosendal
Published in Language Matters
Volume 41
Issue 2
Pages 238-259
ISSN 1022-8195
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 238-259
Language en
Keywords English, formal domains, French, institutionalised language use, language competition, Rwanda (Ikinyarwanda), quantitative
Subject categories Bilingualism


Following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, far-reaching language policy was introduced. Due to the return of many exiled English speakers, English was stipulated as the third official language alongside French and Rwanda (Ikinyarwanda), the latter being the national language, spoken as L1 by 99.4 per cent of the population. This article summarises the use of the three official languages, focusing on the role and position of languages in the current competitive situation which the post-1994 language dispensation has caused. The main issue dealt with here, is whether or not the Rwanda language is affected by the dispensation. The position of each language is analysed with regard to its institutionalised use or status in domains such as administration, education, and mass media. A quantitative method which accounts for percentage distribution (mostly of language use) has been developed and is applied to evaluate the position of the languages.

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