Investigating the nature of borrowed French color terms in Congolese Kiswahili
This research project investigates the nature of French color loanwords in Congolese Kiswahili. Although the nature of color terms in Tanzanian (standard) Kiswahili has been investigated (Berlin & Kay, 1969), no studies exist on the nature of color terms in Congolese Kiswahili, which is a group of pidgins and creoles of French and standard Kiswahili spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Color terms that have been studied in standard Kiswahili do not behave consistently; some have adjectival capabilities, others only exist within adjectival phrases, and a few can even behave as nominals. Previous studies have seldom noted that borrowed French color terms exist in Congolese Kiswahili and therefore, lexical categorization of these color terms is unstudied. Standard Kiswahili has multiple equivalents for color terms due to the way the language constructs certain color expressions; however, there are no studies specifically investigating whether the standard color terms or the borrowed French color terms are preferred by Congolese Kiswahili speakers. This thesis focuses on three primary research questions. Firstly, are French borrowed color terms truly in use, and if so, how many? Secondly, are these color terms preferred over their standard Kiswahili equivalents? Thirdly, how are these terms lexically categorized, i.e., are they nouns or true adjectives? To test these questions, a mixed-methodology survey was designed and data was collected on Qualtrics. Participants had the option to take the survey in French or in English as well as an option to take it online, in-person, or virtual assistance. 15 respondents took the survey. The participants were Congolese refugees living in Wichita, Kansas who are native speakers of Congolese Kiswahili and over 18 years of age. Results indicate that although many speakers recognize French color terms, they do not prefer them over other standard Kiswahili options. Results regarding lexical categorization are inconclusive but indicate that these terms may have both nominal and adjectival properties. This research has many follow-up questions: Do attitudes surrounding borrowing in Congolese Kiswahili affect use of French color terms? Why are some French color terms more universally recognized and preferred than others? Can differences in use and preference be explained by differences in dialect? Since some color expressions in Kiswahili can be highly dependent on hue, are these French terms also only used to describe certain shades and hues?
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Accepted in partial fulfillments of the requirements for the Applied Linguistics Capstone Major and the Emory Lindquist Honors Track in the Honors College of Wichita State University.