Discourse structure of trader-customer Kiswahili interactions in Kenyan open-air markets:A case of Gikomba and Kongowea
This study investigates the discourse structure of trader-customer Kiswahili interactions in two open-air markets in Kenya, namely, Gikomba market in Nairobi and Kongowea market in Mombasa. The data was collected from the two markets, which were purposively selected as they provide an ideal context in which trader-customer interactions can be validly observed. The market discourse is largely manifested in the linguistic interaction between the trader and the customer as they engage each other in the bargain context. The structure of the market encounter makes trader-customer transaction a discernible discourse characterized by such structural markers as turn-taking, use of affective vocabulary, honorific terms of reference, conversational openings (COs), conversational closings (CCs), speech acts and various discursive topics. These features should not be assumed to apply universally to other cultures and contexts. Whereas features like turn-taking and topic framework are pertinent in accounting for the structure of the market discourse, pragmatic meaning can be realized in situations that exhibit discernible characteristics through which situational parameters give language and meaning significance. This inquiry has been inspired by the problem of whether pragmatic meaning is necessarily limited to conversational organization and to what extent it is a product of contextual factors. In view of the research problem that guided the present inquiry, this study sought to achieve the following objectives: analyze conversational structure of trader-customer Kiswahili discourse; examine coherence and pragmatic meaning in the market interaction; investigate the role of contextual variables in the interpretation of speech acts in the market discourse, and; examine some aspects like code-mixing, honorification and humour which are pragmatic resources of cooperation and collaboration. In order to answer the specific research questions that guided this study, we obtained the data by recording a series of surreptitious transactional negotiations in the mentioned open-air markets. We focused on specific issues and concerns consonant with the objectives of this study by identifying those conversational encounters that were relatively complete in respect to: COs and CCs, topic completion, speech act realization, turn-taking mechanics and negotiation strategies. Thereafter, we identified the general characteristic features that underlie this discourse: the APs, the dialogic conversational turns, lexical items and linguistic utterances which, as evidenced, do not necessarily follow the conventional rules of grammar. In explicating the said data, we employed an eclectic approach, i.e. four theories, namely, Cooperative Principle (CP), x Politeness Principle (PP), Conversation Analysis (CA) and Speech Act Theory (SAT). The CA approach was useful in analysing the turn-taking structure, topic coherence, COs and CCs as well as the repair sequence. The CP is instrumental in explicating the art of cooperation between the two interactants. The basic tenets underlying the CP have been useful linguistic resource in analysing the various pragmatic strategies in light of the dictates of cooperation and collaboration between the trader and the customer. SAT enabled us to explicate the various speech acts as realised in the market context in which they clearly perform many functions. A major finding of this study is that the market discourse has a describable structure which can be explained in terms of the COs and CCs. The discourse reveals order and structure which are collaboratively achieved by the discourse participants. The study also found out that turntaking feature has a consistent and a describable structure that reflects the intentions of the interactants in reaching their goals and that speakership in the market context is such that the participants have equal chances and opportunities in taking up speaking turns. Another finding of this study is that either party is free to initiate new topics of transaction, as long as such topics so initiated relate to the bargain exchange. The interactants could initiate a new topic of the conversation, besides reviving an old one that was not exhausted and concluded as per the dictates of the bargain exchange. The various topics bordered on the socio-political and economic life of the interactants and seemed to be mutually acceptable to the two parties. Such topics revealingly functioned as coherence strategy in this discourse. The study also found out that market discourse contains a cross section of persuasive speech acts, through the polite language forms and structures. Lastly, the study concluded that trader-customer Kiswahili discourse is a strategic undertaking in which the partners use various strategies in an attempt to win favours from their co-interlocutors.
SponsorhipThe University of Nairobi
Department of Philosophy
SubjectDiscourse structure of trader-customer
Kiswahili interactions in Kenyan open-air markets:
A case of Gikomba and Kongowea