Accepted paper:

Semilingualism, colonial disruptions and language policy in the African context


Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju (University of Ilorin)

Paper short abstract:

Colonial disruption in Africa's development manifests prominently in the area of language ecology. This paper examines semilingualism as a manifestation of colonial disruptions, and the potential of policies such as the new Lagos (Nigeria) indigenous language policy to address the problem.

Paper long abstract:

Connections and disruptions in Africa's socio-political, economic and cultural life manifest prominently in the area of language, communication and national development. The language issue in African development (or non-development) is encapsulated in two opposing views. On the one hand, the colonial intervention and imposition of colonial languages on Africa is seen as a blessing, with colonial languages apparently promoting internal unification, scientific education, international access, and intercultural exchange. On the other hand, the imposition of colonial languages is also seen as disenabling: distorting not only the process of language acquisition but also cognitive processes in general; eroding linguistic diversity; leading to attrition of indigenous languages, loss of traditional knowledge and of traditional modes of knowing, and eroding cultural identity and sense of dignity of Africans. In many African states such as Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa, policies are constantly formulated to address disruptions in the linguistic ecology of once colonized states and to open up new space for indigenous language representations. However, the quality of such policies, and their potential to effect the required transformations, has been quite hotly debated. In this paper I examine the specific problem of semilingualism in the African context (as a manifestation of colonial disruption in African linguistic ecology), and the potential of policies such as the new Lagos (Nigeria) indigenous language policy to address the problem. I compare the Nigerian context to the situation in other African countries such as Ghana and South Africa, and also examine why earlier such policies had been unsuccessful.

panel Lang01
Connections and disruptions: a sociolinguistic perspective