Kinubi texts

Kinubi texts. By Xavier Luffin. (Languages of the world/Text collections 21.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2004. Pp. 173. ISBN 9783895868351. $84.30.

Reviewed by Benji Wald, Los Angeles, CA

In anticipation of his Un créole arabe: Le kinubi de Mombasa (Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2005), and based on his 2004 dissertation at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, this volume offers a selection of texts and transcriptions collected by Xavier Luffin. An Arabic-based creole spoken by a Muslim community of southern Sudanese origin, Kinubi (or Nubi) originated during military service under the Egyptians in the nineteenth century and continued under the British in East Africa throughout the twentieth century. Kinubi is now spoken primarily in Uganda and Kenya. L’s texts, which include speakers of various ages from three different communities, comprise a variety of topic genres, such as narratives about the history of the community and individual members as well as general descriptive discourses about community customs and beliefs.

In ‘Preliminaries’, L briefly introduces the community and the nature of the data (6–7). He also provides a bibliography of Kinubi (8–9). Contrary to expectation—possibly due to editorial error—not all of the speakers are identified by age, although from the content it is possible to deduce the general age or generation of some of the speakers. The age differences of the speakers may have implications for observing changes in the creole over time: one of the most beneficial aspects of these texts. The residential communities of the speakers are also of great interest. The texts are organized into three communities: (i) Bombo, Uganda, represented by approximately eight speakers; (ii) Kibera, Uganda, two speakers; and (iii) Mombasa, Kenya, five speakers. In sum, the texts include approximately fifteen speakers, ranging over two to three generations, all male (judging by their Muslim names and the content of their speech samples).

The texts are provided in line triplets that consist of the Kinubi text, a morpheme gloss, and an English translation. In addition to speaking in Kinubi, most speakers show a number of switches to English and Swahili, most often for single words, but sometimes for a clause or more. This is valuable data because, for the most part, extended passages by all speakers are entirely in Kinubi, which indicates that there is no question about the integrity of the language or the complete fluency of each of the sampled speakers. The switches are simply according to the nature of multilingualism in East Africa.

Both the language and the content of the texts are wide ranging. The volume is of great value in documenting this creole in its full vigor.