Nature of Dholuo Metonymy


  • Arthur Mbara Rongo University
  • Boke Wambura Tom Mboya University


The emergence of metonymic expressions in Dholuo is a linguistic phenomenon experienced in native-speaking regions overtly and subtly. In their day-to-day conversations, interlocutors make use of metonymy for various linguistic goals. Even so, metonymic expressions have not been given adequate attention by analysts in applied linguistics. This paper examines the nature of Dholuo metonymy, by analysing metonymic patterns based on the ‘how’ question as the guiding principle. The paper focuses on the South Nyanza dialect of Dholuo, because it is considered the standard variety among other dialects. The paper is anchored on the Causal Theory of Reference advanced by Kripke (1980), to investigate how inanimate metonyms are used as reference points for inanimate objects. Data for this study comprised actual metonymies collected using focus group discussions and interviews. The data was collected in Homa Bay County where the researchers reached out to farmers, traders, sportsmen/women, musicians, and travellers. Data was analysed using critical discourse analytical procedures where Fairclough’s (2003) description, explanation and interpretation approach was adopted. The findings revealed that Dholuo metonymy is referential, experiential, humorous and rhetorical in nature. That means the speaker manifests an independent intention to refer to a given object regardless of the particular interpretation of the expressions used; the metonymic concepts are grounded in people’s experience and language; the speaker expresses a certain attitude towards the referent in a humorous way; the speaker uses its figurative force to flower the language. The findings of this paper would be a source of reference to scholars in linguistics and an addition to existing knowledge on metonymy, applied linguistics and African language studies. 


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Author Biographies

Arthur Mbara, Rongo University

Joseph Arthur Mbara is an adjunct lecturer at Rongo University, Kenya. He holds a Master of Arts (Linguistics) degree from the University of Nairobi. His research interest is in African language structure and use. He has previously analysed attitude and language use in Dholuo and Suba Languages spoken in Kenya. He is a member of the Language Association of Eastern Africa. Mbara cherishes figurative use of language. Email:

Boke Wambura, Tom Mboya University

Boke Joyce Wambura is a lecturer at Tom Mboya University, Kenya. She holds a PhD (Linguistics) degree from the University of Leeds (UK). Her main areas of interest include Language and Gender, Discourse Analysis and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) studies. She is also keen on examining language use in the African context. She is a member of the British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL), and a pioneer member of the Language Association of Eastern Africa (LAEA) and the Association of English Language Educators and Researchers (ASELER), Kenya. Joyce believes that the beauty of language is in its use. Email:




How to Cite

Mbara, A. J., & Wambura, B. (2024). Nature of Dholuo Metonymy. JULACE: Journal of the University of Namibia Language Centre, 8(1 and 2), 28–40. Retrieved from