Nexus between Gender and Language Shift among the Youth in Nairobi County, Kenya

Rosemary Wamaitha Kimani, Naom Moraa Nyarigoti, Moses Gatambuki Gathigia


The phenomenon of language shift is brought about by language contact. Language shift from mother tongue to another language among the youth is an issue that cannot be wished away due to, inter alia, factors like urbanization, migration, multilingualism or bilingualism and the country’s language policy. Studies have also shown that there is notable difference in the use of language along gender lines. The objective of this study, therefore, is to assess the nexus between the gender variable and language shift among the youth in Nairobi County, Kenya. The study is anchored on a sociolinguistic theory known as the Domain Theory. The study adopted the ex-post facto research design. The study targeted students in public day secondary schools in Nairobi County, Kenya. The sample size of the study comprised 98 students drawn from public day secondary schools in three sub-counties in Nairobi County. Questionnaires were used as the tools of data collection. The reliability of the tool was computed using the Cronbach’s coefficient method with a reliability coefficient of 0.83. Descriptive statistics was used to describe the findings of the data. Chi-square tests were conducted to establish the relationship between gender and language shift. There was a significant relationship (χ2=18.143, p<0.05) between gender and the language used in communication with students of the same sex. There was also a significant relationship (χ2 =13.144, p<0.005) between gender and the language used at school. The findings also show that majority of those who use Kiswahili (62%), Sheng (100%), English and Sheng (100%) or Kiswahili and Sheng (100%) are males. The findings, therefore, show that female and male students use languages differently and therefore, language shift occurred differently between the two genders. The findings, therefore, imply that in schools, female students are more likely to use English while male students are more likely to use Sheng. Kiswahili is used equally among males and females while mother tongue is not used at all. The study concludes that gender plays a significant role in language shift among the youth in Nairobi County. The study recommends that the Ministry of Education reviews the current language policy to include instructions in mother tongue in secondary schools.


Language Shift, Gender, Youth, Mother Tongue, Sheng, Kiswahili, English

Full Text:



Airasian, P. W., & Gray, L. R. (2000). Educational research: Competences for analysis and application. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Babane, M.T., & Chauke, M.T. (2016). Xitsonga in language shift: A sociolinguistic approach. Journal of Social Sciences, 47(1), 49-57.

Batibo, H.M. (2005). Language decline and death in Africa: Causes, consequences and challenges. Clevedon U.K: Multingual Matters Ltd.

Bartoo, P. J. (2009). Language change and social networks among Somali refugee teenagers (Unpublished Doctorate Thesis), University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

Brenzinger, M., Heine, B., & Sommer, G. (1991). Language death in Africa. In R.H. Robins & E.M. Uhlenbeck (Eds.), Endangered languages (pp. 19–44). Berg: Oxford.

Clyne. M. (2003). Dynamics of language contact: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cohen, R.J., & Swerdlik, M.E. (2005). Psychological testing and assessment (6th edition). New York: McGraw Hill.

Eckert, P., & McConnell-Ginet, S. (2003). Language and gender. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fishman, J. A. (1972). The sociology of language: An interdisciplinary social science approach to language in society. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Fishman, J.A. (1977). Language and ethnicity. In H. Giles (Ed.), Languages, ethnicity and intergroup relations (pp. 15-57). London: New York Academic Press Inc.

Fishman, J. (2004). Language maintenance, language shift and reversing language shift. In T. K, Bhatia & W.C. Ritchie (Eds.), The handbook of bilingualism (pp. 406-436). Maiden / Oxford / Carton: Blackwell.

Fraenkel, J., & Wallen, N. (2000). How to design and evaluate research in education. San Francisco: McGraw-Hill Company.

Githiora, C. (2002). Sheng, peer language, Swahili dialect or emerging Creole? Journal of African cultural studies, 15 (2), 159-18l.

Granhemat, M., Abdullah, A. N., Heng, C. S., & Tan, H. (2015). The influence of gender and ethnicity on the choice of language in the transaction domain of language use: The case of undergraduates. International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 4 (5), 249–254.

Hamdani, F. (2012). The influence of gender in determining the language choice of teenagers: Sudanese versus Bahasa. International Journal of Basic and Applied Science, 1(1), 40–43.

Kothari, C. R. (Ed.). (2004). Research methodology: Methods and techniques. New Delhi: New Age International Publisher, India.

Kathuri J., & Pals, A. (1993). Introduction to educational research. Njoro: Egerton University Press.

Kamwangamalu, N. (2003). Social change and language shift in South Africa. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 2(3), 225-242.

Labov, W. (2001). Principles of linguistic change. Oxford: Blackwell.

Leedy, P. D., & Ormrod, J. E. (2005). Practical research: Planning and design (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Mesthrie, R., Swann, J., Deumert, A., & Leap, W. (2009). Introducing sociolinguistics (2nd ed). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Michieka, M. (2005). English in Kenya. A sociolinguistic profile of English in Kenya. World Englishes, 24 (2), 172-186.

Mugenda O. M., & Mugenda, A. G. (2003). Research methods: Qualitative and quantitative methods. Act Press. Nairobi.

Murkherjee, A. (1996). Language maintenance and language shift: Panjabis and Bengalis in Delhi. New Delhi, India: Bahri Publications.

Murray, T. R. (2003). Blending qualitative and quantitative. Research methods in theses and dissertations. Thousand Oaks. CA: Corwin Press.

Nicholas, P.C. (1978). Black women in the rural South: Conservative and innovative. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 17, 45-54.

Ortman, J. M., & Stevens, G. (2008). Shift happens, but when? Inter-and intra-generational language shift among Hispanic Americans. Population association of America 2008 annual meeting programme. Retrieved from

Orodho, J. (2005). Education and social sciences research methods. Nairobi: Harlifax Printers.

Trudgil, P. (2003). A glossary of sociolinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tsitsipis, D (1998) A linguistic anthropology of praxis and language shift: Arvanitika (Albania) and Greek in contact. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Wardhaugh, R. (2006). An introduction to sociolinguistics. UK Blackwell Ltd.

Winter, J., & Pauwels, A. (2005). Gender in the construction and transmission of ethnolinguistic identities and language maintenance in immigrant Australia. Australian Journal of Linguistics, 25, 153-168.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2010-2022 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

Advances in Language and Literary Studies

You may require to add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list’ If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox'. Otherwise, you may check your 'Spam mail' or 'junk mail' folders.