It was about one and a half years ago that I finally I arrived where I had always wanted to be and do what I had always wanted-- teach students, support small language communities and conduct research on African languages on my doorstep. The University of Cape Town and my new colleagues welcomed my efforts to establish the Centre for African Language Diversity-- CALDi as well as The African Language Archive-- TALA and I was recently appointed the Mellon Research Chair: African Language Diversity this initiative. The main aim of CALDi is to train young African scholars in descriptive linguistics and open up space for research into African languages at UCT with the hopes of countering the dominance of African linguistics outside the continent. It has been a great challenge for which my whole career has been a form of preparation...Read more
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On the origins of urban Wolof: Evidence from Louis Descemet's 1864 phrase book
Based on evidence from a French-Wolof phrase book published in Senegal in 1864, this article makes the case that urban Wolof, a variety of the language characterized by significant lexical borrowing from French, is a much older variety than scholars have generally claimed. Historical evidence suggests that urban Wolof emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries in the coastal island city of Saint-Louis du Sénégal, France's earliest African settlement and future capital of the colonial entity that would be known as French West Africa. The intimate nature of early contact between African and European populations and the later role played by the or mixed-race population of the island as linguistic brokers contributed to a unique, urban variety of Wolof that has important links to today's variety of urban Wolof spoken in Dakar and other cities throughout the country.