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Speaking of tradition: how the Ngoni talk about value maintenance and change

Journal article
Authors Tove Rosendal
Published in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Volume 39
Issue 9
Pages 776-788
ISSN 0143-4632
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 776-788
Language en
Keywords Culture, traditions, practices, taboos, naming, Ngoni
Subject categories Bilingualism


This paper presents results from an ethnographically informed study based on focus group discussions where rural Ngoni farmers in the southern highlands of Tanzania voice their ideas about their cultural heritage, with a special focus on attitudes towards Ngoni culture and cultural changes. With a model based on Ehala [2009. “Connecting the Individual and Cultural Level Value Analysis: The Case of Utilitarianism vs. Traditionalism.” Journal of Human Values 15 (2): 107–118; Ehala, Martin. 2010. “Refining the Notion of Ethnolinguistic Vitality.” International Journal of Multilingualism 7 (4): 363–378. doi:10.1080/14790711003637094] this study investigates the relationship between the ideological system of a community and the social system of this community. This in-group perspective contributes to insight into values systems of rituals, taboos and traditions, including a case study of naming traditions. Earlier findings of extensive codeswitching between Swahili and other Tanzanian languages have had a language loss perspective. This study combines this focus with a new framework to investigate the relationship between the competing ideological and social systems. Changing practices have been attested. These seem to be mainly due to asymmetrical power differences and influences caused by modernity, globalisation and especially the nation-state.

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