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Linguistic markets in Rwanda: Language use in advertisements and on signs

Journal article
Authors Tove Rosendal
Published in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Volume 30
Issue 1
Pages 19-39
ISSN 0143-4632
Publication year 2009
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 19-39
Language en
Keywords language policy, language planning, language use, language change, advertising, multilingualism
Subject categories Other Humanities not elsewhere specified


Rwanda has experienced major changes during the last decade due to the genocide in 1994. After the civil war, in addition to establishing political and economical stability, peace and reconciliation, the government was faced with the return of refugees from neighbouring, mostly English-speaking, countries. The new socio-demographic conditions resulted in a change in the official language policy from Rwanda-French bilingualism to Rwanda-French-English trilingualism. During the post-genocide period, therefore, English has been introduced into official domains and has contributed towards a new linguistic situation in Rwanda. This paper investigates how these recent changes are reflected in newspaper advertisements (10 issues of state-owned Imvaho Nshya), 914 shop signs and 221 billboards in Kigali and Butare. The basic assumption of the analysis is that the languages in Rwanda are currently in a competitive position on the linguistic market, affecting not only the use of the national and official language, Rwanda, but also the position of the non-African official languages. This competition is an ongoing process, which will necessitate further studies from a macro-sociolinguistic perspective in order to establish the roles and usages of the three official languages of Rwanda

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