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Kisisi (Our Language): The Story of Colin and Sadiki

Kisisi (Our Language): The Story of Colin and Sadiki

Perry Gilmore

ISBN: 978-1-119-10157-4 October 2015 Wiley-Blackwell 184 Pages


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Recognized as a finalist for the CAE 2018 Outstanding Book Award!

Part historic ethnography, part linguistic case study and part a mother’s memoir, Kisisi tells the story of two boys (Colin and Sadiki) who, together invented their own language, and of the friendship they shared in postcolonial Kenya. 
  • Documents and examines the invention of a ‘new’ language between two boys in postcolonial Kenya
  • Offers a unique insight into child language development and use
  • Presents a mixed genre narrative and multidisciplinary discussion that describes the children’s border-crossing friendship and their unique and innovative private language
  • Beautifully written by one of the foremost scholars in child development, language acquisition and education, the book provides a seamless blending of the personal and the ethnographic
  • The story of Colin and Sadiki raises profound questions and has direct implications for many fields of study including child language acquisition and socialization, education, anthropology, and the anthropology of childhood

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Acknowledgments ix

Map xiii

Prologue xv

1 Uweryumachini!: A Language Discovered 1

2 Herodotus Revisited: Language Origins, Forbidden Experiments, New Languages, and Pidgins 17

3 Lorca’s Miracle: Play, Performance, Verbal Art, and Creativity 35

4 Kekopey Life: Transcending Linguistic Hegemonic Borders and Racialized Postcolonial Spaces 58

5 Kisisi: Language Form, Development, and Change 93

Epilogue 132

In Memoriam 137

Notes 138

References 146

Index 157

"The book is a fascinating account of the genesis of the language in a region where relatively rich American and European settlers and researchers interact with the economically challenged locals. They cooperate with each other, despite experiences of separation, habitats with invisible physical boundaries, sentiments of contempt and respect, situations of embarrassment, and the feeling that it is impossible to change this society with so little social justice and legal equality. The author does not condemn anyone, but she shows her indignation about the hidden and overt racism and the unjust distribution of privileges. These boys were able to transgress the symbolic borders, breaking all the unwritten rules, among others by creating a new language with its own structure. The book is worth reading both for the social aspects of life in Kenya and for the linguistic aspects."

--Peter Bakker, Journal of Pidgin and Creole Langauges 32.2

"The book stands in contrast to many of the prevailing theories at the time about the formation of new languages. Throughout the book, the author looks critically at linguistic theories of language formation that were prevalent at the time and contrasts them the development of a language between her son Colin and his Kenyan friend, Sadiki. This comparison is used to show how the field of linguistics developed to the point where language creation among children, with no outside help from adults, would be seen as possible. Thus, her research adds to the scholarship on language development in children, a research area that is lacking in linguistics literature."

--Eric Baptiste, Anthropology Book Forum