Investigating the nature of French color terms in Congolese Kiswahili

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Hemberger, Kaitlyn
Menon, Mythili

Hemberger, Kaitlyn. 2022. Investigating the nature of French color terms in Congolese Kiswahili -- In Proceedings: 21st Annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Forum. Wichita, KS: Wichita State University, p. 31


Color terms in standard Kiswahili are plentiful and have varied lexical behavior. Some terms are adjectives, others are nouns, and a select few may be both. Only a few are basic color terms, and the rest are either derived or borrowed. French color terms in Congolese Kiswahili, a newly observed phenomenon, have never been lexically or preferentially examined and are rarely even mentioned in current literature. This honors thesis tests three questions. Are these color terms still in use and if so, how many? Are the French or the standard Kiswahili color terms preferrable to speakers? How are these terms lexically categorized? Participants had the option to take this Qualtrics survey in French or in English and to take it online or with in-person or virtual assistance. They were asked 27 questions divided into three tasks: one multiple choice type, one fill-in-the-blank type, and one short sentence type. All 12 respondents were Congolese Kiswahili speakers in Wichita, Kansas and were over 18 at the time of completion. This research is still in progress, but early linguistic morphological and syntactic analyses indicate that although some speakers recognize that French color terms are in use, just as many do not. Further, even fewer prefer them over standard Kiswahili color terms. Early results regarding lexical categorization are currently inconclusive; however, they suggest that they may act both nominally and adjectivally. These differences may be attributed to negative attitudes surrounding borrowing from French, hue-based word use, or even dialect variation.

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Second place winner of an oral presentation for Social Sciences and Humanities at the 21st Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Forum (URCAF) held at the Rhatigan Student Center, Wichita State University, April 15, 2022. First place winner of University libraries undergraduate research award.