An investigation of phonological variations in the english spoken by indigenous Zambians as used in the media
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English as a global language is fast growing and spreading, thereby, giving rise to varieties peculiar to the speech community using it. One of such speech communities is Zambia. The widespread use of English in Zambia has resulted into an interaction with the Bantu languages spoken in the country. English in Zambia, British in origin, is undisputedly spoken differently from Received Pronunciation (RP). The aim of this study was to establish the phonological features of English spoken by indigenous Zambians in order to establish the extent to which this form could be deviant from Standard British English. Specifically, the study sought to establish the sound system, examine the phonological processes that give rise to the ‘deviant’ sound system and analyse stress placement in English by Zambian English speakers. This study is important because it gives features and nuances of the English language spoken in Zambia as used in the media and adds significantly to the body of knowledge about world Englishes.The study was qualitative in nature and employed the ethnographic research design. Through non-participant observations, data were collected through 30 recordings from purposively sampled local and national TV and Radio newscasts, interviews and phone-in programmes. The findings of the study revealed that English spoken in Zambia as used in the media has a five vowel system similar to the Bantu languages, that is, /a, e, i, o, u/ partly because of the interaction between English and the Bantu languages spoken in Zambia. Consonant sounds on the other hand are similar to those of RP. Consonant clusters tend to be simplified through phonological processes such as deletion, insertion and substitution. Other processes include vowel changing such as lowering, vowel substitution and monophthongizations of diphthongs and triphthongs. Additionally, the findings revealed that the English spoken in Zambia is syllable-timed. Finally, the conclusion drawn is that the findings are indicative of the fact that the English spoken in Zambia as used in the media is a different variety from Received Pronunciation (RP). The phonological trends show that Zambian English speakers seem to have established a phonologically distinct variety spoken in Zambia. The English spoken in Zambia can thus be said to be phonologically deviant from RP. From the findings, it is recommended that due to the phonological trends happening in the media, teachers and other ‘Zambian English’ speakers should not ridicule or even punish those said to be using Zambian English because RP seems to be unachievable.
The University of Zambia