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The 'Local' and the 'Global' in Es'kia Mphahlele's Writing: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Two Autobiographical Novels

Luanga A. Kasanga
Journal of African Cultural Studies
Vol. 15, No. 2 (Dec., 2002), pp. 183-201
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3181416
Page Count: 19
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The 'Local' and the 'Global' in Es'kia Mphahlele's Writing: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Two Autobiographical Novels
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Abstract

Of the more than three hundred critical works on Mphahlele's monumental literary work, none to the best of my knowledge gives insights into the (socio)linguistic aspects of his writings in their context of production, that is life at home and in exile. This article, which adds to the mainly thematic and aesthetic critical reviews of his œuvre, is a linguistic (forms) and sociolinguistic (functions) analysis of two of his autobiographical novels, "Down Second Avenue" and "The Wanderers," written respectively almost entirely at home and altogether in exile. Like many of his African contemporaries, Mphahlele uses 'hybrid' forms of English in both novels, to introduce or maintain an authentic flavour of, or keep his work closer to, its surroundings. He, however, introduces significant differences between the two novels in the use of sociolinguistic and pragmatic devices, such as code-mixing, styleswitching, and the nativization of speech functions, to underscore the richness of the multi-setting world in which his autobiography evolves, and, thus, reflect the 'local' and 'global' characters of the socio-political settings of each novel. Arguing that the understanding of Mphahlele's outstanding literary mountain is incomplete without an in-depth critical sociolinguistic analysis of the whole of his literary work, I suggest that my analysis, tentative though it may be, may set an agenda for future and more comprehensive studies.

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