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Abstract

This study attempts an analysis of a restructured Swahili variety spoken by Nairobi's street community: Kinoki. Adapting tools of sociolinguistic inquiry and focusing on Kinoki's divergence from the dominant urban slang, Sheng, the study discusses attitudes toward divergent terms referencing the street community, street activities, and law enforcement officials. Results indicate that street children, unlike their school-going peers living in the city's low-income neighborhoods, redefine pejoratives that devalue and stigmatize street people and their lifestyle. Instead, Kinoki empowers the marginalized community to construct a positive identity, to ameliorate representations of street lifestyle, and to redefine neologisms that reference in-group (us) and out-group (them) experiences. Further, the study situates Kinoki within Nairobi's complex linguistic environment and explores its social roles.