State Ideology and Language in Tanzania

ISBN 978-3-89645-024-1

State Ideology and Language in Tanzania

Author: Jan Blommaert †. Series edited by: Bernd Heine, Wilhelm J.G. Möhlig †.

Series: EALD East African Languages and Dialects Volume 10

204 pp.
Text language(s): English
€ 39.80

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The present study analyses how Swahili – the national language of Tanzania – was politicised and incorporated in the nation-building efforts associated with the introduction of Ujamaa ideology in 1967. In particular, the book investigates the influence and effects of Ujamaa ideology on the formation, treatment, discussion, and utilisation of Swahili in the postcolonial society of Tanzania on its way to socialism.

Apart from a history of Ujamaa and the common national culture promoted by it, in which Swahili had pride of place, the study offers thorough analyses of the genesis of intellectual and scientific traditions in postcolonial Tanzania. The development of a local ‘school’ of linguistics is discussed, as well as the emergence of a heavily politicised new literature in Swahili. Central to the treatment of the issue is the role of intellectuals in the newly socialist state, their language usage in itself demonstrating many of the features of the relationship between state ideology and language.

The book is a sociolinguistic study which combines micro- and macro-sociolinguistic approaches as well as historiographic aspects of the topic. It addresses advanced students and scholars in the fields of general sociolinguistics, anthropological linguistics and Third World studies.


This book is undoubtedly one of the most significant works published on the socio-linguistic and political-ideological history of Tanzania in recent years. [...] The book can be considered as the culmination of Blommaert's work on the politics of language in Tanzania.

Pedzisai Mashiri in Anthropological Linguistics, 43/3, 2002, 403-406

The book by J. Blommaert, aiming at description of the role of Swahili in the state ideology of African socialism and nation building, provides a gamut of details on the history of the Swahili language and on its study by Tanzanian institutions and scholars. As such it is a useful tool for understanding of its rising to the role of the influential East African lingua franca.

Stanislaw Pilaszewicz in Hemispheres, 16/2001, 145-146

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