The aesthetics of the Gikuyu language in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Ciatani Mutharaba-ini
The use of the Gikuyu language as opposed to the English language has had a significant influence on Ngugi’s style in his fiction. The forms of his vernacular novels have a higher affinity with the African oral literary tradition than his earlier works whose orientation is basically Eurocentric. In seeking to address himself to the masses as represented by workers and peasants in his works, he has engaged them in a discourse that heavily invest in their popular idioms and modes of literary imagination. It is with this in mind that this study investigates how he has used language to generate aesthetic pleasure in Caitaani Mutharaba-ini. The study treats literary language as a system that arises from a greater system of language in general, and which is heavily determined by the historical and socio-cultural environment in which it thrives. It therefore takes advantage of the concept of langue and parole advanced by Ferdinard de Saussure and their application in formalism and semiotics. This is supplemented by the Bahktinian ‘Sociological Poetics’ where we treat the work of art as an aesthetic object whose communicative function is best realized in locating its literary discourse in its social and historical purview. The study therefore proceeds to show how specific linguistic choices in Caitaani have profound aesthetic effects on an audience that is conversant with the Gikuyu idiom and how these have been watered down in the translation. Whereas the reader of the original fully grasps the way meaning arises in certain allusions in the text, the reader of the translation may have to grapple with them. This is why the author who is also the translator has altered some linguistic choices in the translation and thereby curtailed the overall aesthetic actualization of the text.