LINGUIST List 25.2963

Fri Jul 18 2014

FYI: Second Call for Chapters: African Sociolinguistics - New Deadline

Editor for this issue: Uliana Kazagasheva <>

Date: 17-Jul-2014
From: Ellen Hurst <>
Subject: Second Call for Chapters: African Sociolinguistics - New Deadline
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African Sociolinguistics/The Study of Linguistic Behaviour as Determined by Socio-cultural Factors in Africa: Appraisal, Issues at Stake and Perspectives

Under the coordination of Dr. Augustin Emmanuel Ebongue, University of Buea, Cameroon, and Dr. Ellen Hurst, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Sociolinguistics is the branch of linguistics charged with the study of interactions between languages and society (social organization and structure) especially as far as the influence of society on language and vice-versa is concerned. It equally serves as an analytical or methodological framework for the study of the aforementioned interactions both in language and society. In Africa, the study of linguistic behavior as determined by socio-cultural factors would therefore be expected to focus on the interactions between the various African languages and African societies. However, African sociolinguistics is often related to the study of interactions between European/American languages and African languages. If one considers the literature, social structures seem to have neither an impact nor an influence on native languages and vice-versa. This assumption needs to be tested: even though African societies have not historically been organized in terms of class as in Europe and America, they are organized in ways that can be expected to have an impact on African languages. Additionally, the entry of Europeans into Africa and the impact of capitalism had an effect on both African languages and societal structures. The arrival of Europeans undoubtedly led to interactions between European and African languages. Since Africans were faced with new ideas and concepts at that period, they needed to resort to lexical borrowings in order to communicate. Words like “motor”, “soap”, “money”, “radio”, “television”, etc. were unknown to Africans before the coming of Europeans to the continent. Yet beyond the level of language interaction, these borrowings are also suggestive of the ways in which societies were impacted and ultimately restructured in the wake of this change. The effects of contemporary African societal structures on African languages therefore becomes an important object for study.

Relatively few studies thus far have been dedicated to the assessment of African sociolinguistics. That is, the sociolinguistics dealing with the study of interactions between African languages and African social structures with a view to identifying the various linguistic dynamics that result. This lack may be justified by the insufficiency of financial resources allocated to African researchers by various state authorities. In practice, European states tend to fund projects contributing in one way or the other to the promotion of their languages: France for French, Great Britain or the United States for English, etc. However, we acknowledge and appreciate the financial support provided by some organisations such as UNESCO for the revalorizing of Africa’s linguistic heritage. Yet, funds are insufficient and cannot essentially be provided by foreign states or organisations whose interest is not invested aside from in the maintenance of the world’s cultural heritage. More investment is needed by African governments and research bodies. Another reason for a lack of African sociolinguistic research is the almost systematic exclusion of African languages from many African school systems in general, which can account for a scarcity of work in and on African languages.

Africa has experienced many historical events which have affected her various languages. For instance: the slave-trade which had as a linguistic impact the advent of a range of creole and pidgin languages; the colonization and decolonization of African countries; and colonial policies which moved from linguistic tolerance, in British colonial administrations, to linguistic intolerance, in French colonies. Such events can have an impact on language status, policy and use. In addition to what we may consider as external factors, other factors related to the internal organization of African societies before, during and after the rush of Westerners into Africa can be identified. We have for example the tribal/ethnic and linguistic diversity of Cameroon and Nigeria with over 300 languages and ethnic groups as well as migration flows which ended as a result of the advent of slave-trade and colonization. Rapid industrialization, urbanization, and the linking of African markets to global economic systems are also factors that might manifest an influence on African languages. Some work has already been undertaken on African urban and youth languages. For instance, a conference on African Urban Youth Languages, held in South Africa, in July 2013; we can also list the book edited by Ebongue Augustin et Atindogbe Gratien (eds.) (forthcoming), articles and books by inter alia Beck (2011), McLaughlin (2009), Githinji (2008), Makoni, Brutt-Griffler et Mashiri (2007), Kiessling and Mous (2004) Spitulnik (1999), and Abdulaziz et Osinde (1997). Many African corpora may additionally draw the attention and interest of sociolinguists. For instance there is an important and living corpora made up of an essentially multilingual African music which sociolinguists can draw upon.

We have cases of vehicularization/vehicularity, vernacularization/vernacularity, etc. which have been described in several African countries. For example, in African countries wherein leading vehicular languages are spoken such as the two Congos (the DRC and the Republic of Congo) with Lingala and Kituba, dialectal Arabic in the Maghreb, Sango in the Central African Republic, Wolof in Senegal, etc., is it not possible to consider the study of linguistic behaviour determined by socio-cultural factors in urban areas, especially as we know through Calvet (2000) that urban zones are favorable to multilingualism to the detriment of monolingualism? What are those African multilingualisms and monolingualisms? Do they even exist? In the Northern region of Cameroon, the main transnational vehicular language Fufuldé prevails over the other neighbouring languages such as French, Arabic and other native languages. Fufuldé and Pidgin-English are the only true vehicular languages of Cameroon, Fufuldé being the only identity vehicular language of the country. The vehicularity of other Cameroonian identity languages such as Beti fang and Douala is complex and still needs to be proven.

Beyond these cases which are peculiar to Africa and Africans, we wonder whether the surveys detailing the study of linguistic behavior as determined by socio-cultural factors undertaken abroad cannot be envisaged in Africa? We have for instance linguistic and sociolinguistic surveys related to gender; variation studies such as William Labov’s studies carried out in New York; dialectology; existing vehicularity and vernacularity research; work on style, performance and social representations; linguistic insecurity/security and so on. We shall equally consider cases of language contact since it implies ‘non official’ bilingualisms as well as the use of two, three or more languages having different socio-political status in a speech community. Is it not possible to consider studies based on Fergusson’s concept of diglossia in the African context? What of the study of linguistic behavior as determined by socio-cultural factors in rural areas all over Africa, even though we acknowledge the fact that the latter is more often ignored even in Western linguistics situations where more attention is paid to sociolinguistic situations in the various cities.

African languages have been threatened as a result of the implementation of colonial policies which aimed to assimilate and globalize social exchanges thereby causing the demise of fragile languages as far as economic and geographically strategic issues are concerned. What can African sociolinguistics do in the face of this obvious threat to languages which attract little scientific interest? Ultimately, what will we benefit from the study of an African linguistic behaviour determined by African socio-cultural factors, and what might we lose if the latter remains in hibernation? Is it possible to conduct a status report?

This invitation for proposals aims to gather contributions addressing the issues raised above. Any contribution related to the study of African linguistic behaviour determined by African socio-cultural factors will be of interest. As a rough guide, without claiming to be covering all aspects related to the issue, one or many of the following themes might be studied:
- The social and linguistic representations of African languages;
- Language contact as far as African languages are concerned;
- African Bilingualisms, as well as the use of two, three or more languages having different socio-political status in a speech community;
- Young African dialects/languages;
- Linguistic insecurity/security as far as African languages are concerned;
- Language registers/levels;
- The varieties of African languages;
- Etc.

The revised deadline for abstracts consisting of about 300 words is 20 August 2014. Abstracts will be accepted in English and French, or in an African language accompanied by an English or French translation. Full chapters written in a maximum of 15 pages in a Word format with normal spacing, character size 12 and typed in Times New Roman and queries are expected before 20 November 2014 at either of the following addresses: (French queries and submissions) or (English queries and submissions).

In-text citations: « ……….. »/ ‘’ ……… ‘’ (Biloa 2003: 34) or Biloa (2003: 34). Footnotes shall only be used in order to insert additional information.

Bibliographic references:
Abdulaziz, Mohammed and Kenneth Osinde. 1997. Sheng and Engsh in Nairobi. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 125, 1-21.
Biloa, Edmond. 2003. La langue française au Cameroun. Bern: Peter Lang.
Githinji, Peter. 2008. Sexism and (mis)representation of women in Sheng, Journal of African Cultural Studies, 20(1), 15-32
Kiessling, Roland and Maarten Mous. 2004. Urban Youth Languages in Africa. Anthropological Linguistics, 46(3), 303-341.
Makoni, Sinfree, Janina Brutt-Griffler and Pedzisai Mashiri. 2007. The use of urban and indigenous languages in Zimbabwe. Journal of Language in Society 36, 1-36.
McLaughlin, Fiona (ed). 2009. The Languages of Urban Africa. London: Continuum.
Spitulnik, Debra. 1999. The language of the city: Town Bemba as urban hybridity. Journal of linguistic anthropology 8, 30-59.

Echu, George. 2004. Anglicismes et problématique de la norme lexicale dans le français du Cameroun. In : Langues et communication : Contributions à la question de la norme du français, University of Yaoundé I. vol. 01. n°5. pp.87-103.

Scientific Committee
- Prof Jean Tabi-Manga, University of Yaoundé I,
- Prof Edmond Biloa, University of Yaoundé I,
- Prof Ngalasso Mwatha Musanji, University of Bordeaux,
- Prof Denis Zachée Bitjaa Kody, University of Yaoundé I,
- Prof George Echu, University of Yaoundé I,
- Prof Sammy Beban Chumbow, University of Yaoundé I,
- Prof Gratien Atindogbe, University of Buea,
- Prof Vincent Tanda, University of Buea,
- Prof Jeffrey Heath, University of Michigan,
- Prof Philippe Nguessimo Mutaka, University of Yaoundé I,
- Prof Ellen Hurst, University of Cape Town.

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Page Updated: 18-Jul-2014