Connections and disruptions: a sociolinguistic perspective
Bert van Pinxteren (Leiden University)
Maarten Mous (Leiden University)
Elise Solange Bagamboula (INALCO (PLIDAM))
Language and Literature
50 George Square, G.01
Friday 14 June, 8:45-10:15, 10:45-12:15 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

Foregrounding potential and emerging new language practices and policies that favour increased indigenous language use.

Long abstract:

NOTE: after the paper presentations, there will be a Panel Discussion on the same theme.

After decolonization almost all African countries chose former colonial languages as national languages. Economically and psychologically, at the time it seemed the rational choice for most countries. It provided continuity, both within countries and between countries and former colonizers. However, it also it marginalized large sections of the population, unable to participate in national debates due to lacking language skills and knowledge.

Increasingly, these continuities face disrupting influences. The world order is changing, breaking down the dominance of colonial countries in favour of new players such as China. This creates space for countries to readjust their language policies in order to increase educational efficiency and to cater to demands by groups wanting to use their own languages in more social domains. Examples include:

- changing language policies in countries like Ethiopia, eSwatini and South Africa;

- emerging community-based radio and TV stations in countries like Ghana;

- use of indigenous languages as medium of instruction for language teaching in several countries;

- related developments.

This is opening a space for new social, cultural and developmental vigour, as predicted by scholars like Vansina and Prah. It uses hitherto untapped communication potential that exists in many African countries. However, it also creates new divisions. This panel seeks to foreground both the potential for a shift in language use and actual developments on the ground. It will entertain presentations on continent-wide tendencies, as well as specific case studies.