Languages, Identities and African Studies Finex Ndhlovu School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics Monash University Email: email@example.com
Introduction • Focus of the presentation: interdisciplinary research proposal on African issues underpinned by a linguistics perspective. • One of the most abundant resources in Africa is linguistic diversity: the continent is endowed with a third of the world’s living languages (Adegbija, 1994; Grimes, 2000; Batibo, 2005). • A dominant question that is often asked about this multiplicity of languages in the context of African development is this: which one of the several languages should be selected to be the African lingua franca? • For me the most important questions are the following: • what is the potential role and place of linguistic diversity in the discourse on African development? • How can language diversity be harnessed and deployed towards improving Africa’s socio-economic and political fortunes?
Research Themes • The proposed research will focus on 6 themes that seek to explore the potential contribution of linguistics to the theories and methodologies in African Studies: • African cross-border languages and African communities in the Diaspora • African Englishes in the context of intercultural communication • The language question in constitutional and parliamentary democracy • The place of language in African regional and inter-regional integration • Language, democracy and human rights in Africa • Linguistic diversity in the context of freedom of speech and association
Research Theme 1African cross-border languages and African communities in the Diaspora • African Studies is or should not only be about Africa in a geographical sense because the presence of global Africa is an indisputable reality. • several living populations of African communities worldwide with language as one aspect of their identity that has endured geographical space from homeland Africa • Need for a rethink of what Africa and Africanness is about • African communities in the Diaspora constitute an integral part of how Africa continues to evolve and register its presence beyond the traditional confines of geographical boundaries • realities of global migration and cross-border movements of human populations make a linguistics perspective on African Studies imperative
Research Theme 2African Englishes in the Context of Intercultural Communication • Among the key objectives of most African Studies programs is the desire to explore the competitiveness of Africa both as a market and a producer of commodities at a global level. • language of trade and intercultural communication comes in. • history of English in Africa shows the language has played an important role in political processes of integration at national, regional, interregional and international levels • AU Language policy considers English to be one uniform standard language: proposal - the English language in Africa is a product of different experiences of the diverse African cultures = ‘African Englishes’ • Qns: whose variety is the standard at AU level? Extent of mutual intelligibility? Is standard variety necessary? Power imbalances through use of ‘standard English’?
Research Theme 3The language question in constitutional and parliamentary democracy • What is the language of: parliament; electoral processes including voter education? – standard national/official languages! Implications for speakers of other language varieties? • Because Parliaments dominate political institutions they have the capacity to provide a chance for marginalized groups to contribute to national discourse – promoting the use of languages other than those selected for specific official and/or national functions • Investigating possibility of proportional Parliamentary representation that is cognizant of African linguistic diversity and cultural pluralism • Premise of proposal: if African parliamentary systems are to speak on behalf of various stakeholders; if parliaments are to display the structure of the entire population in terms of all of its relevant attributes, then the language factor should be seen as fundamental.
Research Theme 4The place of language in African regional and inter-regional integration • Regional political integration and economic co-operation has become a big issue in Africa, which continues to gather momentum: African Parliament African Union SADC ECOWAS COMESA • All these are discursive forums in which language plays a vital role in ensuring effective co-operation • Talk of common markets, a common currency, political integration and loosening of boundaries means the question of cross-border languages becomes an issue • Therefore, certain practical considerations of African economic, political and cultural co-operation call for a linguistics perspective on African Studies and African development : need for a clearly spelt out continent-wide language policy providing channels for effective intercultural communication among citizens of an integrated Africa.
Research Theme 5Language, democracy and human rights in Africa • Processes of democratization in African institutions and recognizing individual and/or collective human rights have a linguistic dimension: • Which language is used in what functions? • Do ordinary African citizens, particularly speakers of socio-politically weak language varieties, have access to language(s) of choice? • How are the notions of rights to language(s) and rights of language(s) represented in the existing debates on democracy and human rights in Africa? • How is the linguistics dimension to our understanding of democracy and human rights in Africa represented in existing international African Studies programs?
Research Theme 6Linguistic diversity in the context of freedom of speech and association • Freedom of association and freedom of speech are key issues in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. • Premise of proposal: that people are not prohibited from freely expressing their opinions and associating without any hindrance does not automatically mean these freedoms are realized. • Questions: • In which or whose language are they associating? • In which or whose language are they expressing themselves? • Do all ethnolinguistic polities existing in specific African language ecologies have equal access to languages of association and wider communication? • If not, what are the implications for the exercise of these freedoms by different groups of African citizens?
Anticipated Research Outcomes • The proposed research is anticipated to culminate in the following: • Fostering research networks and collaborative research activities with Africanists at Monash University and other Australian research institutions across various disciplines of the humanities, arts and social sciences. • Conference and seminar presentations • Peer reviewed articles to be published in internationally reputable journals on African Studies • A monograph on the language factor in African development • Chapter contributions to edited volumes
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