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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Cherry Leonardi

Leonardi, Cherry (2013). South Sudanese Arabic and the negotiation of the local state, c. 1840-2011. Journal of African History 54(3): 351-372

Author(s) from Durham


This article explores the history of the creole South Sudanese Arabic language from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. It analyses the historical evidence of language use in the light of insights drawn from linguistic studies of creolisation to argue that South Sudanese Arabic became an innovative and necessary means of communication among multiple actors within new fields of interaction. The article argues that these fields of interaction were both the product and the arena of local state formation. Rather than marking the boundary of the state, the spread of this creole language indicates the enlarging arenas of participation in the local state. The development and use of South Sudanese Arabic as the unofficial lingua franca of local government, trade and urbanisation demonstrates that communication and negotiation among local actors has been central to the long-term processes of state formation in South Sudan.