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How to look at African Languages

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  1. How to look at African Languages David Dwyer 2/10/2000

  2. How do you look at African languages? (Answer: three different ways) • They could not agree on the language. • They could not agree which language to use. (Thing) • They could not agree on how to word something. (Means) • They could not agree on how to analyze the grammar.

  3. How to look at language • Language as a means • The use of language as a way of doing things • Wolof Greetings: identity • Language as a thing • Issues of one language or another • Language planning, which lg. to use in school • Wolof and Pulaar identity • Language as potential (grammar)

  4. Language as a Means • Wolof greetings: a means of establishing identity. • A means of getting things done. • There are very few things that are accomplished without language. • A means of developing common understandings • Common background knowledge: culture • A.K.A. “Intersubjectivity”

  5. Wolof Greetings • Basic Facts: • The Wolof are a pastoral/agricultural group who live along the Senegal River. • The Wolof have a clearly defined set of classes (or castes) of Griots (praise singers), (former) Slaves, Freemen and Nobles. • Wolof greetings are highly formal (they have a clearly identifiable form. • 1. Stages: Salutation, Heath Question, Praise of God, body of conversation. • Two distinct roles: Greeter and Responder

  6. Mohammed Salaam alikum. (Arabic) Peace be with you. Salisu (Says his own name) Mohammed Na ngga def? How do you do? Mbaa dyamm ngg'am? Don't you have peace? Salisu Salaam alikum. (Arabic) Peace be with you. Mohammed (Says his own name) Salisu Maanggi fi rek. I am here only. Dyamm rek, naam. Peace only, yes. Wolof GreetingsGreeter:Salisu Responder: Mohammed

  7. Ana waa kir gi? Where [i.e., how] are the people of your household? Ana __________ (e.g. Mustapha)? Where [how] is ____ (Mustapha)? Mbaa tawaatu loo? Isn't it that you aren't sick. Mbaa keen feebaru? Isn't it than anyone isn't sick? H'mdillay.(Arabic)/Tukbarkalla. Thanks be to God. Nyu-ngga fa. They are there [ok]. …. Mu-ngga fa. He's there [ok]. ... Maanggi sant Yalla. I am praising God. Nyu-nggi sant Yalla. They are praising God. H'mdillay (Arabic)/ Tukbarkalla. Thanks be to God. Wolof Greetings

  8. Roles of Initiator and Respondent

  9. Language as Thing • Language versus dialect • How many languages are there in Africa? • Somewhere Around 1500 • What is the difference between language and dialect? • Difference is not linguistic, but socially determined. • Examples…. • Language as thing to negotiate identity

  10. Language as Thing • Language as thing also involves issues of language planning. • What should be the language policy in South Africa? (Talk right after class). • What should be the language policy in our schools? • Many African countries have a language policy, the United States does not.

  11. Language as thing: example cont.. • The Fula • Before, Fulbe did not consider the Haalpularen to be ethnically the same. • After. Given the need to show large population statistics, the two groups see themselves as ethnically one united by a common language • The Fulbe see Wolof language as a threat to their identity • The Serer • Since a common language does not unite the Serer, they have no concerns about speaking Wolof

  12. Language as Thing: Policy 1. African languages must take on the duty, the responsibility and the challenge of speaking for the continent. 2. The vitality and equality of African languages must be recognized as a basis for the future empowerment of African peoples. 3. The diversity of African languages reflects the rich cultural heritage of Africa and must be used as an instrument of African unity. 4. Dialogue among African languages is essential: African languages must use the instrument of translation to advance communication among all people, including t 5. All African children have the unalienable right to attend school and learn in their mother tongues. Every effort should be made to develop African languages at all levels of education. he disabled.

  13. 6. Promoting research on African languages is vital for their development, while the advancement of African research and documentation will be best served by the use of African languages. 7. The effective and rapid development of science and technology in Africa depends on the use of African languages and modern technology must be used for the development of African languages. 8. Democracy is essential for the equal development of African languages and African languages are vital for the development of democracy based on equality and social justice. 9. African languages like all languages contain gender bias. The role of African languages in development must overcome this gender bias and achieve gender equality. 10. African languages are essential for the decolonialization of African minds and for the African Renaissance.

  14. Language as thing to negotiate identity • Fula v. Serer in Senegal • Three major languages in Senegal: Fula, Serer and Wolof • Wolof - Both ethnic language and lingua franca • Fula (=Pulaar) language of several groups including the Fulbe and Halpulaaren • Serer a collection of different varieties, defined by the Europeans as one language and ethnic group

  15. Language as Potential (Grammar) • Pele mia This is a house. • Kálií mia v Kalií mia. This is a snake, hoe. • Nyaa Kálií loma. I see the snake. • Kálií lo pele-wu. The snake is in the house • Nya yeya lo. This is my hand • Kalií lo nya yeya. I have a hoe. • Kálií lo. See the snake.

  16. Language as Potential: Grammar • The three domains of language. • The sound system: phonology • The structure of sentences: syntax • The structure of words: morphology • Linguists also look at language • As meaning: semantics • As historical product: historical linguistics

  17. Language as potential • The study of language as potential looks at the structure of a language and how it goes together. • This is the work of linguistics. • One of the important work of linguistics has been to discover linguistic universals and the common principles by which human languages operate.

  18. How do you look at language? • As a means to communicate • A way of getting things accomplished, a means of establishing common understandings, a means of negotiating identity. • As a thing • What is language (dialect), what language should be used when and where, language policy, a means of negotiating identity, …. • As potential grammar • How language is organized to allow us to communicate, the commonalties of human language.

  19. The End