The Semantics and Semiology in the Tachoni Circumcision Ritual for Cultural Revitalization, Social Transformation and Documentation.

Author: Lucy Mandillah (Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology)
Speaker: Lucy Mandillah
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL AFALA 2021 General Session


The world is characterized by linguistic and cultural diversity reflected through many spoken languages estimated to be over 6000. In a linguistic diversity situation, the linguistic rights of need to be protected in order to maintain the cultural diversity and heritage. However, globalization has had a profound impact on the use, knowledge and preservation of Africa’s indigenous languages and cultures. African cultures are perceived as primitive. Consequently, most portions of African heritage are undergoing attrition and those which have been jealously safeguarded are threatened by modernism. Crystal (2000) predicts that of the approximately 6,000 languages, up to 90% will disappear within the next 100 years. Thus, little recognition has been given to the fact that cultural heritage contributes to strengthening local populations’ dignity, identity and improved livelihoods. Anthropologists argue that cultural relativity and sustainable development can only thrive if we fully acknowledge the principle of cultural freedom and begin to show respect for our cultures. Circumcision among the Tachoni is an age-old practice which needs to be preserved, (Kakai 1992). It is one of the ways the Tachoni fulfil their religious, social and physical development obligations. Despite the importance attached to it, the ritual is being threatened by modernism. It is against this premise that this paper examines the Tachoni circumcision rituals with a view to discovering their underlying cultural meanings and documenting related cultural lexical items which are undergoing attrition. The study is grounded in the Social semiotic theory of language in analyzing the semantics and semiotics in the identified rituals. The study was conducted among the Tachoni of Bungoma County, Kenya. Purposive sampling was used to identify four respondents who were subjected to in-depth interviews and participant observation. Data was presented in narrative form and analyzed thematically. The analysis revealed that Tachoni circumcision rituals have significant meanings which are symbolic in nature. Lessons learnt from such meanings could lead to socio-economic transformation in the modern world where social decadency has become the norm. Further, the study identified and documented the cultural lexical items with a view of preserving them for language maintenance and posterity. The paper concludes that governments should support development of educational, research and training centers which are controlled by indigenous communities to allow them apply good aspects of their heritage. The study recommends the mainstreaming of culture into curriculum at all levels of Education for cultural identity and heritage.

Keywords: Language Rights; Revitalization; Informal Education ; Semiotics; Tachoni