Homogeneity and heterogeneity in the pronunciation of English among Ugandans: A preliminary study

Article Authors: Monica Adokorach, Bebwa Isingoma


English is an official language in Uganda and is said to be in its nativization phase when placed within Schneider’s (2007) model of the trajectorial development of Englishes (Isingoma & Meierkord, 2019). In the present study, we delineate the general features of the Ugandan accent of English (i.e. those that cut across regional or ethnic boundaries) as well as features that evince variability among Ugandans due to regional or ethnic background. The first description of the phonological features of the variety of English spoken in Uganda is included in Fisher’s (2000) seminal paper on this L2 (second language) variety of English. Another description of these features is found in Nassenstein (2016). Both Fisher (2000) and Nassenstein (2016) provide a short section, outlining the features which are similar to the general features of L2 Englishes, notably the restructuring of the phonemic system, e.g. /a/ replacing /ɜ:, ɑ:, ʌ, ə/ and the free variation of [l] and [r], although the latter occurs regionally (see similar findings on L2 varieties of English in Bailey & Görlach [eds.] 1984; Platt, Weber & Ho, 1984; Schmied, 1991; Simo-Bobda, 2000; Atechi, 2004; Schneider et al. [eds.], 2004; Tsilimos, 2018; among others). Additionally, Simo-Bobda (2001) and Schmied (2004) describe more or less the same features but in a more detailed way under the label ‘East African English’ (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania). Schmied (2004) posits three reasons that underlie the features in question: substrate influence, simplification and spelling pronunciation. To these studies, we add a more focused study on one particular aspect of the Ugandan accent(s) of English, namely by Meierkord (2016), who looks at diphthongs and how they are realized by speakers of different L1s. Her findings demonstrate variability but also convergence in the idiomorphic pronunciation of diphthongs by Ugandans.

Bibliographical metadata

Journal English Today
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Volume 38
Issue No. 1
Pages 15-26
DOI 10.1017/S0266078420000152
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