Sociolinguistic Surveys in Selected Kenyan Languages: The Boni/Dahalo Report

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Rilling, Art
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SIL International
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Dallas, Texas
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SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2012-037
32 pages

A survey of Boni (Eastern Cushitic) and Dahalo (Southern Cushitic) located in the Lamu District, Kenya was carried out by SIL researchers Art Rilling and Eric Graham during September 22-29, 1985. Their purpose was to assess the need and also the desires of Boni and Dahalo speakers to develop literature in their languages. The research sought to estimate (1) linguistic relatedness of Boni, Dahalo, and Bajuni, (2) multilingualism in Swahili and Somali, and (3) the desire and potential of each group to use literature in its respective mother tongue. Methods employed included word list comparisons, questionnaires, and interviews

All Boni interviewees expressed a "need" to read literature in their mother tongue, primarily so that children could be educated in the language to preserve it.

Dahalo interviewees are unopposed to seeing literature developed in their language, since benefits of doing so include preserving their language and making it known to others. But there is little interest, perhaps because of the reported proficiency of the Dahalo community in Swahili, which is perceived by them to be the most important language and one that is already used by Dahalo speakers more than their mother tongue.

All Boni and Dahalo interviewees spoke Swahili. Monolingualism in Boni reportedly exists for all age groups in forested areas. Thirty-five percent of Boni-speaking interviewees claimed also to speak Somali. Dahalo interviewees reported that there are few monolingual Dahalo speakers, all elders.

No Dahalo speakers interviewed had learned to read, whereas almost half of Boni interviewees were literate in Swahili.

[This 1986 report has not been peer-reviewed but instead, an update by Manasseh Wekunda, was requested and is included with this report. Mr. Wekunda is the Task Assessment Officer of Bible Translation and Literacy, Kenya. Editor]

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Language surveys
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