JOPOL 2(2020)

Pragmatics in Bakuli: A Linguistic Ethnographer’s Notes from the Neighborhood

This contribution offers insights into contemporary language practices in the Ugandan capital Kampala where Rwandans and Burundians, Congolese traders, refugees and travelers meet and interact. Speakers in Bakuli, a vibrant neighborhood of the Ugandan capital, do not seem to categorize themselves according to geolinguistic lines of national belonging, instead language appears to be fluid and permeable. Based on an experiencebased and reflection-based approach pursuing a linguistic ethnography, my preliminary contribution compares processes of “(un)doing” language(s) in the context of colonial nation-building with recent contexts of conflict migration. Central questions are: Which strategies do specifically contemporary migrants from Rwanda and Burundi employ to subvert and play with the differences between both languages and break language boundaries? How do they create a new language-in-between that includes emblematic features of both Kinyarwanda and Kirundi, making a clear indication of nationality and national categorization therefore impossible? In the framework of a “pragmatics of place”, this ethnographic note intends to show how concepts of place/space contribute to a change in meaning of linguistic varieties and their speakers’ (internal) selfing strategies, as well as to a rearrangement of external categorizations of speakers, ethnic groups and geolinguistic belonging.

Keywords: pragmatics of place, fluidity, language boundaries, linguistic ethnography, Kinyarwanda-Kirundi