Some characteristic features of Englishes in Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland

  • Nkonko Kamwangamalu
  • Themba Moyo


This article discusses the function of the English and the local form it takes in three Southern African countries, namely Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland. English was introduced in these countries as a result of contacts between the indigenous people and British traders and missionaries during the 19th century.  English, which had initially been the language of trade, became the official language in colonial administration. Since then, English has had shifting but always important roles alongside the indigenous languages. As usually happens with languages in contact, there has been a fair amount of mutual influence. In this article, we examine some of the changes in English, concentrating on the usage of non-L1 speakers. Kachru (1982) speaks of this process as ‘indigenisation’: changing the language to suit the communicative needs of non-native users in new, un-English contexts. That explanation is only partly satisfactory. Languages influence one another in sophisticated sociolinguistic ways that require more penetrating analysis. In this article, we are concerned mainly with examining and describing the transfer of syntactic, phonological, lexical and semantic features from indigenous languages into English. From observation, most of the Africanisms that apply in the three countries discussed, particularly in Malawi, could well apply to Zambia and Zimbabwe as well. Finally, we reflect on some future possibilities.

Author Biographies

Nkonko Kamwangamalu
Professor Nkonko Kamwangamalu is  Associate Professor of English University of Natal, Durban (to become the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in 2004)Email:
Themba Moyo
Professor Themba Moyo is Head of the Department of  at the University of Zululand, Ongoye, CampusEmail: