Manual Language Decline And Death In Africa: Causes, Consequences And Challenges. (Multilingual Matters)

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Looking at it horizontally entails doing a user analysis, that is, establishing who speaks which language in order to determine the distinct language communities. This aspect of study would consider the plurilingual nature of the African continent. On the other hand, if we consider the African sociolinguistic profile vertically, we would be looking at use analysis, that is, the set of languages that members of a speech community have at their disposal, and therefore use at their discretion according to the subject matter, the personal relationships with their interlocutors, the context, the mode of communication and other circumstances and needs Mkude, In this chapter, we shall look at the horizontal profile.

The vertical profile will be considered in the next chapter. African Plurilingualism Compared with other continents, Africa has by far the highest concentration of languages in the world. The large range between the lowest and the highest figures is a reflection of the difficulties that both scholars and the African countries themselves face in deciding the number of languages in a country, and hence in the whole continent. Some of these problems are as follows. For example, while the Chagga people, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, consider themselves as speakers of one language, one could easily identify at least three different speech forms which are not mutually intelligible.

Linguistically, therefore, one would consider them to be three languages. On the other hand, although the Sesotho, Setswana and Sepedi speakers in southern Africa see themselves as speakers of three distinct languages, their languages are mutually intelligible and linguistically could be considered as dialects of one language. This was the case before the arrival of missionaries in the 19th century, who established different orthographies for each of these varieties, thus separating them from each other.

A similar situation arose in Cameroon, where Ewondo and Bulu, which are to a great extent mutually intelligible, had separate orthographies prepared by two rival missionary organisations Pierre Alexandre, pers. Situations like these are very common in Africa. The problem is often compounded by the fact that a language may be intelligible to speakers of another language.

However, such intelligibility may not be due to linguistic proximity but, rather, to one group learning the other language. This is, for example, the case of the Central Khoe languages Gwi and Gana, whose speakers understand Naro, another Central Khoesan language. But such intercomprehension is because most of the Gwi and Gana speakers have learnt to speak Naro. Some of the African languages are found in dialect clusters with graded intercomprehension. Thus, the nearest varieties would be mutually intelligible, but not those at a distance from each other.

It therefore becomes difficult to decide where to establish a language boundary. This is the case with many of the Khoesan languages of the Central Kalahari, which are often found in dialectal continua as their speakers traditionally live in small, scattered groups for hunting and foraging strategies. Thus, they tend to develop a continuum of dialectal differences, which do not always correspond to their geographical habitat. It has become difficult to decide how to group them into sets of languages, particularly as extensive descriptive studies of each of these clusters are still lacking.

The Languages of Africa 3 For political reasons, most African countries do not include questions on language or ethnicity in their census surveys. So it becomes difficult to know who speaks what language or who belongs to which ethnic group. It therefore remains a matter of guesswork on the part of the language researchers. Given that most of the African languages do not have written traditions, no standardisation has been carried out to determine language entities or which dialects fall under one orthographic system. In some cases, even where the speakers of two forms of speech recognise themselves as belonging to one language entity, they may still want to see different orthographies established to reflect the characteristics of each.

This is the case with Sebirwa and Setswapong in eastern Botswana. The establishing of two orthographies would inevitably mean the recognition of two standard language forms. The names of some languages are known only through documentation. Some of these names may represent alternative forms of an existing language, while others may refer to languages which are no longer in existence. Ora and Xegwi. Such languages have since become extinct Traill, but continue to be listed in the literature. Finally, some speech forms cannot be called true languages as they are only created so that people who speak different languages can communicate.

An example of a pidgin is Fanagalo in southern Africa, which is spoken mainly in the mines. It is only when a pidgin becomes fully developed and has mother-tongue speakers that it is recognised as a language. It is difficult, at times, to decide when to consider a pidgin as a true language, as in the case of the many English-, French- and Portuguesebased pidgins in Africa. In view of the above reasons, it has not been possible to agree on a definite figure for the number of African languages. In fact, some recent conservative estimates have come up with as few as just over see, for example, Maho, Niger—Congo also known as Congo-Kordofanian is the largest of the four African language families.

Niger— Congo comprises 10 sub-families Table 1. The Afro-Asiatic family, on the other hand, occupies most of what is traditionally known as the Maghreb in North Africa, including the northern parts of the Sahara, stretching east into the Abyssinian mountains down into eastern Africa. The family is known as Afro-Asiatic because some of the languages spread into the Middle East.

The family has six sub-families Table 2. The Nilo-Saharan language family is based mainly in the Nile valley in what is now Sudan, with pockets in the Sahara and West Africa regions. There are four Nilo-Saharan language sub-families, which could also be seen as independent families Bender, The fourth sub-family has six distinct branches Table 3. Finally, the Khoesan languages are found mainly in southern Africa, with pockets in East and Central Africa. The Khoesan languages can be grouped into five sub-families Table 4.

The extinct languages have been excluded from the table. These figures are given in Table 5. Evidently, as seen above, they should be considered as broad estimates. The multitude of languages on the African continent has also given rise to varying degrees of plurilingualism in the 55 African states and territories.

The term plurilingualism is used in this study to denote a state of having many languages in one country or continent, whereas the term multilingualism is restricted to the state of a person who can speak many languages or a community whose members speak many languages. Although, if one divides the number of the African languages by the number of African states, each state would have an average of between 35 and 40 languages, the plurilingual situation is not an even one, as some countries are quasi-monolingual in indigenous languages.

For example, although Swaziland is inhabited mainly by the Siswati-speaking people, there are some speakers of IsiZulu and Tsonga languages from across the border. On the other hand, in some countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Sudan and Tanzania at least languages are spoken within their borders. In fact, more than languages are spoken in Nigeria. Moreover, there is significant inequality in the number of speakers per language.

While major languages such as Arabic and Hausa have tens of millions of speakers, others have just a few hundred. As we shall see, this gross inequality has many sociolinguistic implications. As a result, African plurilingualism has had a considerable impact on many political, cultural, socio-economic and educational decisions.

Although most African countries have played down the realities of plurilingualism and multiculturalism, the effect remains considerable. It touches on matters of national unity, group identity, language choice i. Xuu 2 Southern Khoesan Botswana, Namibia! Such an option is usually taken because the ex-colonial language is thought to be neutral and can be used in technical fields. Moreover, it would not be associated with any ethnic or cultural bias, and so does not benefit one group over another. In fact, this is the option that most African countries have chosen.

Such languages are frowned upon as stumbling blocks to the desired state of monolingualism, monoculturalism and national identity, which are considered to be ingredients for national unity. These options are not mutually exclusive as some countries have combined several of them. African Languages in Contact Movements and migrations in Africa In the previous section we have seen how the more than African languages can be repartitioned into four language families, each found in a geographical area.

Although most of the languages are spoken in specific territories by well-defined language groups, there have been continuous movements and migrations of the speakers, thus causing contacts between the various languages and language groups. Historical contacts between African languages The first contacts began many thousands of years ago when the four language families diversified into sub-families whose speakers began to spread across Africa. This brought many groups into contact.

From historical records, we read about how many languages in North Africa were eliminated after the Arab conquest of the Maghreb region. All the Egyptian languages have disappeared, leaving only Coptic and Demotic, which, fortunately, have survived because of their religious functions. Also there were many Berber languages in the areas that have now become Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. Most of these have disappeared, leaving pockets of languages and language clusters. Moreover, the arrival of the Bantu and other groups in eastern, central and southern Africa eliminated or absorbed the numerous Khoesan and pygmy languages that were spoken from southern Africa to as far north as southern Sudan.

As a result, the Khoesan languages were drastically reduced in number and pushed into the arid parts of central Kalahari, with a few pockets in eastern and central Africa. Equally, many of the early Cushitic and Nilotic languages of eastern Africa were eliminated by the mighty Bantu groups more than years ago, leaving only pockets of these sub-families in eastern and central Africa. Many of the movements and migrations were motivated by socioeconomic factors.

One typical example is that of the Peul or Fulfude, who have roamed across many parts of West Africa in search of grazing grounds. Equally, the Maasai have moved constantly in many parts of East Africa in search of better grazing land. Many farming groups, such as the Sukuma of Lake Victoria, have migrated as far as southern Tanzania and even northern Zambia looking for fertile land for cultivation and cattle herding.

Also, trade and commerce brought many groups together.

The active inter-ethnic trading activities along the eastern African coast gave support to the spread of Kiswahili in that region. Equally, the wide use of Dyula and Songhay as trading languages in many parts of West Africa helped in the spread of those languages. On the other hand, demographic pressure has been a crucial factor in group movement, particularly among the farming and pastoral communities.

Politically inspired wars have been another frequent cause of migration. Other historical conflicts between rulers or groups have caused substantial movements. Finally, religious wars, particularly the holy wars waged by Muslim believers in North and West Africa, have also brought Arabic, the language of Islam, into conflict with other languages Idris, In such cases some remnants of the extinct language could persist in the language of the conquerors — as has been the case with the Khoesan clicks, which have remained in some of the southern Bantu languages such as IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, Siswati and Sesotho.

This phenomenon is known as language suffocation. A typical example is the case of the Maasai in eastern Africa, who had a tradition of preventing the groups they conquered from speaking their languages for fear that they might plot against them. As a result, the restricted languages were only used in cultural activities.

Thus, a number of languages in eastern Africa have experienced language suffocation. They include Akie, Sonjo, Kwavi and Aasax. Such cases have been common in Africa. In some cases, the dominant groups turned the weaker groups into serfs or slaves. Practices of serfdom were common in southern Africa, where the conquered groups, particularly the Khoesanspeaking groups, were made to serve the Bantu masters.


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This system was known as bolantla in southern Africa. Similar cases have been reported in West Africa. Such systems have made the weaker groups consider themselves as inferior and have, therefore, caused the abandonment of their languages and culture in favour of those of the dominant groups. This would be a case of linguistic overlap. Such cases were rare, since most frequently there arose what is known as language conflict, which occurs when two languages compete for status and roles. In fact, language inequalities were not only due to demographic differences of the speakers but also to other factors, such as socio-economic sustainability, political power, legacies of historical domination, levels of external exposure, social organisation and group dynamism.

Alternatively, an artificial language was created as a compromise. This is the case of pidgins, which were discussed above. There are presently many pidgin forms in Africa. Many of these forms have acquired elaborate grammars and lexicons, have become stable and even claim mother-tongue speakers.

They are therefore fully fledged languages. Sometimes the process of pidginisation involved the influence of one language over another in such a way that the affected language lost a substantial number of its original features and in some cases adopted other features from another language. This is the case of Monokotuba, which has lost a substantial part of its original Kikongo forms. Equally, standard Kiswahili has substantially modified its original phonological and morphological structure due to the heavy influx of foreign elements, particularly from Arabic and English Le Page, However, as these European languages belonged to the rulers, they were superimposed on a linguistic situation that was already becoming complex.

Moreover, the advent of colonialism was associated with the introduction of Christianity. One outcome of the new faith was the awakening of traditional cultural values, including language loyalty, as a reaction to the new spiritual outlook. Modern contact between African languages In modern times, movements and migrations of entire language groups have become rare. In most cases, individuals from one language group may move to settle either temporarily or permanently in another area where other language groups may be in existence.

Some typical cases are described below. As a result they come into contact with other languages and may adopt the lingua franca of the area. With the growing populations in towns, industrial and mining areas, trading centres and commercial farms, a significant percentage of the people in each African country are in constant contact Greenberg, Demographic pressure is still an important factor in causing migration in Africa, particularly where resources are scarce or where land is inadequate. This problem is compounded by the growing desertification in the Sahel zone and the continued drought, famine and even floods in several parts of Africa.

There are a number of resettlement schemes, many of which are carried out by governments. These are usually implemented to allow some better or specific use of land. In Botswana, for example, many Khoesan groups have recently been moved from their traditional habitats in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and resettled in other areas, where they are now in close contact with the Bantu-speaking groups. Political or ethnic conflicts in Africa have displaced many people who have had to resettle in other areas and even in other countries as refugees.

This has brought them into contact with other languages. In fact, where refugee status has been prolonged, the children have grown up speaking only, or primarily, the language of the host country.

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Although the active spread of Islam through holy wars is no longer a feature, Arabic, as the language of Islam, has continued its spread through many parts of Africa, particularly in urban areas. To sum up this section, one may observe that, although in the past history of the African continent there have been cases of dramatic language elimination, absorption, suffocation, overlap and conflict as many groups came into contact with each other, the situation is less dramatic in modern times as people tend to move as individuals rather than as language groups.

However, the historical imbalances and stereotypes have remained up to the present and, in many cases, are responsible for the present patterns of dominance, the formation of language attitudes and manifestations of language loyalty. Usually a language group coincides with an ethnic entity, which is defined as a group of people who believe themselves to have a common origin or ancestry, share the same social and cultural experiences, interact through the same medium and pursue largely the same socio-economic activities.

Usually an ethnic group is identified by its common name, language and culture. Normally, an ethnic group would have a territory and a traditional ruler, a chief or, in the case of a large group, several chiefs. Often where there are several chiefs, one of them will be a paramount chief. In traditional times, chiefs were powerful as they had to hold their chieftaincies together and their subjects had to show full loyalty and allegiance. In spite of the emergence of nation-states in Africa in the past 40 years, ethnic identities have remained strong as the members of these groups have continued to show solidarity with each other and loyalty to their institutions.

Even with the weakened powers of the chiefs in most countries, there is still strong allegiance towards them, particularly among the older generations. Ethnicity remains, therefore, a major challenge to the promotion of unity in the African states. At the same time, it is a strong means of preserving linguistic and cultural identity. Language, because it is easily identifiable and is more specific, is the most conspicuous of the features that identify an ethnic group.

Other features include ethnonyms, culture, socio-economic activity, totems, insignia, tattoos and artistic expression. Summary and Conclusions The African continent is blessed with a large number of languages, which number more than This gives an average of between 35 and 40 languages in each of the 55 African nation-states and territories. Thus, the plurilingual question is central in Africa, as it has had considerable impact on many political, cultural, socio-economic and educational decisions.

It touches particularly on matters of national unity, group identity, language choice and community culture, which in turn impact on nationhood, state democracy, equality and harmonious development. The constant contact between languages brought about by the movements and migration of peoples has given rise to language competition, overlap and conflict, which in turn have created complex dominance The Languages of Africa 15 patterns and linguistic marginalisation.

The challenges of plurilingualism in Africa have been compounded by the incidence of ethnicity, in which members of a language group are also members of an ethnic entity. Such ethnic entities have tended to be highly cohesive, propelled by their linguistic and cultural identity.

As rightly pointed out by Laitin , the plurilingual phenomenon in Africa should be accepted as a reality by the African nations, particularly by politicians and language planners. The traditional European model of imposing monolingualism and monoculturalism, as used to create the states of Britain, France and Spain — where English, French and Spanish, respectively, were imposed at the expense of the smaller languages — cannot be used successfully in most of the African countries.

In fact, the current upsurge of once marginalised languages in countries like Ethiopia, Sudan and Botswana, and to a lesser extent in a number of other African countries where a majority language dominates, serves as a lesson that a new model is needed where attention is paid to all languages.

Hence, the plurilingual models cherished by countries such as Canada, Switzerland and Belgium should be those pursued so as to arrive at one equitable and more democratic approach to the language issues. Chapter 2 Patterns of Language Use in Africa The Complexity of Language Use It is often observed, particularly by Westerners, that Africans are good at languages and that they usually speak a good number of them.

The fact that Africans speak several languages is not necessarily because they are linguistically gifted but rather because they are often exposed to many languages. Monolingualism, that is, knowledge of only one language, is rare as individuals are often exposed to at least one neighbouring language or the major language of the area apart from their mother tongue. The rest were bilingual In this chapter we shall see how most African people make use of the several languages or varieties of language that they know and the situations and variables which determine such choices.

Such a discussion will be, in many parts, superficial given the complex nature of language use in African countries.

LINGUIST List African Lang/Lang Death: Batibo ()

In fact, each country has its own unique socio-linguistic ecosystem depending on its history and its patterns of language use. Even in one country, many variations may exist depending on regional, national or areal peculiarities. The discussion here will, therefore, present the most general scenario of the pattern of language use in Africa as a whole. A triglossic structure, illustrated in Figure 1, results from the phenomenon of triglossia, in which three languages are spoken by the same community, each with a distinct and complementary role.

Usually the language at the top of the structure is a highly developed medium used in all high-level official dealings like international relations, diplomacy, government business, justice, and technical domains such as higher education, science and technology. The language at the middle level is usually a widely used language or lingua franca that serves as an inter-ethnic medium. It is used extensively as a public means of communication in domains such as political rallies, social services, local trade and commerce, local administration, primary courts and popular mass media.

Language decline and death in Africa : causes, consequences and challenges

The language at the lowest level of the structure is usually a language of limited communication, often not, or not sufficiently, codified and serves within the confines of the speakers for intra-ethnic communication, family interaction and cultural expression. It might also be used in some village activities, such as co-operative enterprises, customary courts or pre-school education.

Such a language, also known as a minority language, is considered as L in relation to the one above it. In fact, the triglossic structure could be looked at as a doubly overlapping diglossic structure, involving a relationship of two languages at two levels. Many countries in Africa have developed a triglossic structure in their patterns of language use Figure 2. Usually, at the top we find an ex-colonial language — English, French or Portuguese — holding official status and used as the language of higher education in some cases of the entire educational system , science and technology and official Government business.

Such a language tends to monopolise all the secondary or high-level domains and is therefore the most prestigious. Then, at the middle level we find a major indigenous language serving as a lingua franca. Such a language would normally be demographically dominant and socio-economically prestigious. Last, at the lowest level we find a minority language, which normally has few speakers and is socio-economically marginalised. Language Decline and Death in Africa 18 H Ex-colonial language L Dominant indigenous language H Minority language L Figure 2 Typical triglossic structure of language use in an African country Clearly, the patterns of language use in Africa are much more complex than this model would suggest.

Many African people, particularly those with an education, have three languages in their repertoire, namely an ex-colonial language, an indigenous lingua franca or other major language, and their mother tongue. Many, however, know one or two more languages. These other languages may have been learnt from neighbours, by living in another area, through marriage or by association with speakers of other languages.

They would be used mainly when there is contact with the speakers and where a special form of relationship is to be expressed. Strictly speaking, application of the concept of triglossia to African countries is not wholly realistic. This is because most do not constitute homogeneous linguistic entities where three types of language are accorded different, but complementary, roles. In most cases the triglossic phenomenon tends to be limited to individuals or certain groups of people.

Although a triglossic model presupposes a strict division of domains between languages, there is often an overlap in strategies of language choice depending on the level of technicality of the subject matter, the nature of the relationship between the speakers, the mode of expression, the context of discourse and other circumstances. For example, a woman trader in the Lagos market may choose to address her client in standard Yoruba, dialectal Yoruba, Pidgin English or, if she is educated enough, Standard English.

Patterns of Language Use 19 The ex-colonial language is usually the privileged non-indigenous language, but other international languages may also be used in certain domains or by a limited number of people. This is the case with English in Cameroon, Mozambique, Mauritius, Rwanda and Burundi because of their association with neighbouring countries where English is the ex-colonial language.

Similarly, in West Africa a number of countries which were English colonies have to some degree adopted French because their neighbours are francophone. This is the situation in Gambia and, to some extent, Ghana. Moreover, although Afrikaans is generally considered an African language, it has a unique position in southern Africa in view of its history and socio-economic status. In such countries the presence and impact of Arabic is enormous as, apart from being the language of a religion, Islam, it is also the language of trade and, in some areas, it serves as a lingua franca.

In spite of the above observations and the fact that each African country may have other, unique, language patterns, we can generally consider the trifocal model as basic in most African countries. In the following pages we shall examine each of the three categories, namely, ex-colonial languages, the dominant indigenous languages and the minority languages. The ex-colonial languages Africa was colonised mainly by three powers, Britain, France and Portugal.

Here we shall pay less attention to Italy, Germany, Belgium and Spain, whose impact on Africa was minimal. The period of colonial rule lasted for 50 to 80 years, between the Heligoland Treaty in and the time of independence, which for most countries came in the early s. During this period each power introduced its language to facilitate administration and education. Such a language became not only prestigious but also associated with education, paid jobs and a Western lifestyle.

While the British with their system of indirect rule favoured the use of local languages — particularly the dominant languages — in local administration, lower education and normal socio-economic life, the French and the Portuguese adopted a policy of assimilation, in which French and Portuguese were used in all public life, including local government and every level of education.

Even the elementary textbooks were imported from the cosmopolitan centres. After gaining independence between the late s and the early s, many African countries adopted the ex-colonial language as their official language. These languages were also used in all national domains, even where an acceptable or widely used lingua franca existed.

Some of the reasons advanced for taking that decision were that the ex-colonial language was neutral as it was not associated with any ethnicity, and that it was already developed to deal with formal or technical discourse. Moreover, the ex-colonial language was seen as a vehicle of modernisation and technological advancement and as a link with the developed world, as well as a means of social promotion and access to white-collar jobs.

The prestige of the ex-colonial languages, particularly English, has increased in recent years due to their association with modernity, technological advancement, information flow and internationality. Thus, one reason why Tanzania has become hesitant to introduce Kiswahili as the medium of instruction in secondary and tertiary level education is the fear that such a move would further reduce the already diminished proficiency in English in the country. This is at a time when people all over the world are striving to achieve a mastery of English.

Many people in Africa, particularly the elite, have come to consider the ex-colonial languages as central to the economic and technological development of the continent. Even at a personal level, many parents would like to see their children speak fluent English, French or Portuguese. Many of these parents would not even mind if their children had limited fluency in their own mother tongue as these languages are not associated with social advancement, job Patterns of Language Use 21 opportunities or the wider world. In fact, the equating of ex-colonial languages with socio-economic development is practised by many African leaders or ruling elites, although they would hesitate to admit it publicly.

It is for this reason that many OAU now AU declarations and regional resolutions on the promotion of indigenous languages have been given little attention Bamgbose, The ex-colonial languages are also known as languages of wider communication LWC because of their extensive use all over the world and the association with modern technology and information flow. However, Arabic has been included as a language of wider communication for some countries where it has been adopted as a second language, as in the case of Comoro see Appendix 3.

The dominant languages In most African countries there are dominant languages that are not only demographically superior but also socio-economically prestigious. In most cases, such languages have also assumed the role of a lingua franca as they are spoken as a second language by a significant number of the rest of the population. These languages will be referred to in this study as dominant languages.

The dominant languages often serve as linguae francae for inter-ethnic communication at local, national or regional levels. They are usually standardised and reasonably codified. Apart from the existence of a relatively stable orthography, they may have a comprehensively described grammar and a useful dictionary or glossary. The quantity, quality and range of documentation usually depends on the official, national or specific role that they have been accorded or, sometimes, on historical circumstances.

They would normally have some form of prestige either areally in a specific area within a country , nationally within a given country or regionally across national borders. They would attract second language learners from the other less prestigious languages because of the socio-economic promotion, access to wider communication and their demographic superiority. There are three types of dominant language: those of areal, of national, and of regional importance. In the following pages we shall consider each type in turn as they are relevant to our discussion. In most cases, they are demographically superior to neighbouring languages, or their speakers are associated with political or socio-economic predominance in the area.

Many speakers of the neighbouring languages speak them as a second language and may use them for inter-ethnic communication. These languages have remained areally based for one or other of the following reasons. There are languages which are demographically important and have considerable areal dynamism but whose sphere of influence has not extended to the national level because of competition with other equally dominant languages in the same country.

Some of these languages play some public role within their areas of influence. In some countries there are languages that are spoken by a sizable number of the population but which have failed to attain national status because of resistance from the speakers of the other languages or because of a lack of national effort to promote them. They therefore remain confined to a certain area of the country. There are two categories of areally dominant language: the major areally dominant languages or simply major dominant languages and the minor areally dominant languages or simply minor dominant languages.

The former are those which are highly prestigious and have extended their influence over a large area within a country, and the latter are those which have limited prestige but have exerted influence over neighbouring languages. An example of the first category would be the three major Nigerian languages, Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo, while an example of the second category from the same country would be languages such as Nupe, Efik, Izon and Tiv.

In our survey, using the criteria of demographic numbers, socio-economic prestige, social influence or status, attraction of second-language speakers and cultural influence, we were able to identify 88 major dominant languages and minor dominant languages in Africa see Appendices 1 and 3. As we shall see, both categories have been responsible to varying degrees for causing language shift and death among the minority languages.

Patterns of Language Use 23 Languages of national importance Some African languages play national roles because of their national importance. Owing to their incontestable position within the country, they are used extensively as a national lingua franca and are even, in some cases, officially designated to play certain national roles.

Such languages, which will be referred to as nationally dominant languages, are usually accorded several public domains, such as administration, law, lower education, literacy activities, parliament, political activities and mass media. There are three types of nationally dominant language.

Language Decline And Death In Africa: Causes, Consequences And Challenges. (Multilingual Matters)

In many cases the minority groups in the country will also learn and use it as a second language. The nationally dominant languages are normally characterised by their demographic superiority, socio-economic prestige, dominance or influence over other languages in the country, and by the attraction of a sizable number of second-language speakers. In our survey we were able to identify 36 nationally dominant languages in Africa see Appendices 1 and 3.

As we shall see, the nationally dominant and the major areally dominant languages are the most devastating in causing language shift and death because of their power, charm and extent. They can easily penetrate into the primary domains. Here we must distinguish between two kinds. There are those which are not so dominant but happen to be spoken across two countries, such as Shiyeyi in Botswana and Namibia or Suba between Kenya and Tanzania. It is the second category that coincides with our definition of a regionally dominant language.

Unfortunately, such languages have not been given any visible regional status or function on the continent, although they could play a role in regional co-operation. Only Arabic has some regional role in the Maghrebian region, and it is the only language used in the AU — although it is worth noting that Kiswahili has recently been included as a working language at AU meetings.

To summarise this section, we can state that where a language is demographically important, socio-economically prestigious or functionally dynamic in an area or country, it may play an areal role either as a major or minor language; it may be nationally dominant, serving as a national lingua franca; or it may be used across several countries as a regional language.

The minority languages The minority languages, as opposed to the dominant languages, are those which are usually spoken by few people and have no conspicuous public role. Since they have limited or no prestige or socio-economic function, they usually do not attract second-language speakers. They tend to be marginalised and are often considered by their speakers as being of no value for social or economic advancement.

The speakers are forced to learn and use one of the dominant languages or the respective ex-colonial language. Such languages form the majority in most African countries.

The Death of Language: Edinburgh Linguistics Society Soap Vox Lecture

This category of language will be discussed more extensively in Chapter 4. Most countries in Africa have at least one predominant language that serves as a lingua franca and which can be considered to be a dominant language. In our survey, The remaining countries had major areally dominant languages whose use Patterns of Language Use 25 Table 6 The position of the African countries with regard to the nationally dominant and the major areally dominant languages Dominant language type Countries including territories No.

In many cases there was more than one major areally dominant language, each having a distinct geographical location. The position of African countries with regard to the nationally dominant and major areally dominant languages is shown in Table 6. As we shall see in Chapters 5 and 6, it is the influence and attraction of these languages that is responsible for the many cases of language shift and death in the continent.

A number of factors have favoured the expansion or extended use of some languages at the expense of others. The following are the major tendencies. In some African countries there is a tendency for the ex-colonial languages to work their way down through the social system, thus taking over some of the domains of the dominant languages. This is because of the expansion in education, with more and more young people having access to education, which is usually provided in the ex-colonial language.

Once they acquire this language they can obtain a paid job, where again the ex-colonial language is extensively used. More and more young people want to live a Western lifestyle where English, French or Portuguese would be the preferred language. With the growing need to keep abreast of information technology, international information flow and modern technology, the ex-colonial languages, particularly English, are seen as vital. In contrast to this, in some countries the influence of the ex-colonial language has undergone a significant decline, mainly because of the extensive use of the dominant language.

This is the case, for example, in Tanzania, where the role of English has diminished from that of a second language to that of a largely foreign language. In many countries, the domains of the dominant languages are expanding both upwards and downwards. In expanding upwards, they are taking over some of the domains of the ex-colonial languages.

Thus, the dominant languages in countries like Tanzania, Botswana, Ethiopia, Somalia and most of the Arabic-speaking countries have succeeded in extending their roles to most of the secondary domains, with the ex-colonial language retaining only the international and technical domains. With the exception of Cameroon and Mozambique where another ex-colonial language is in use , all those countries where the use of English has been restricted just to international communication are also countries with strong dominant languages, as these have assumed most of the national functions.

On the other hand, at lower levels of the social spectrum the dominant languages have taken over many of the domains of the minority languages as they are used even in the village and the family. Inter-ethnic movements and interactions through trade, working places and intermarriages have promoted the use of a lingua franca to facilitate communication.

In some countries smaller groups tend to depend on larger groups for a livelihood, and thus readily adopt the language used by the latter. There is a growing tendency to marginalise the small languages as many of their roles are taken over by the bigger languages; hence their use becomes restricted to communication at family and village level and to cultural expression. In most cases, only the older people use them on a regular basis as the younger generation tend to use the ex-colonial language or the dominant language.

With the expansion of Arabic in countries which border the Arab world or where people want to associate their linguistic and cultural identity with their Muslim faith, there is a possibility of considerably more expansion of this language, hence adding to the socio-linguistic complexity of the continent.

Finally, the often overlapping roles of the ex-colonial and dominant languages on the one hand, and those of the minority and dominant languages on the other, have brought about a number of socio-linguistic phenomena in many countries. Such phenomena include continuous language conflict, extensive code-switching and code-mixing, massive borrowing from one language by another, language interference, double allegiances, inconsistent or conflicting language policies and, at times, states of indecision on the part of decision-makers.

A number of these are considered in more detail in the next section. There seems to be an expanded form of language conflict — almost in the Darwinian sense of survival of the fittest Darwin, In each country there is a horizontal competition as the respective languages come into contact, and there is also a scramble for roles as people have to choose which language to use in which situation or relationship.

While some languages continue to increase the number of domains or functions in which they are used, hence moving upwards, others find themselves on the losing side. As a general trend, in most countries the dominant languages that are used as national means of communication seem to gain over the other languages. Thus, in many countries the roles accorded to the ex-colonial languages are diminishing progressively in favour of the dominant languages where such languages have assumed national roles.

This implies too that the frequency of use as well as proficiency in the ex-colonial languages decline as well. Moreover, the dominant languages that are used as national media have gained so much status and weight that they are pushing the minority languages into a marginalised position. As a result, speakers of the latter easily lose their loyalty to their language and prefer their children to become proficient in the dominant language as it is judged to offer more socio-economic and political benefits.

Usually the grammar of the sentence is provided by the dominant language, the matrix code, while the vocabulary — particularly the technical terms — come from the ex-colonial language, the embedded code. In that case, the minority language usually provides the matrix form and the dominant language the embedded form. This is the switching from one language, dialect or register to another in the course of discourse.

Usually, code-switching is inter-sentential, whereas code-mixing is intra-sentential. Code-switching is practised for various reasons, the main one being the creation of distance or proximity between the interlocutors. When one meets a person one does not know, the dominant language would be used as the common language. There are other reasons for code-switching.

The subject matter or context of discourse may fit another code better; both speakers might be highly proficient in both languages; or one of them might have a preference for one of the languages Myers-Scotton, Code-switching is very common in Africa, particularly between the ex-colonial and dominant languages, but also between dominant and minority languages.

Sometimes, it occurs between two languages of equal status as a way of meeting halfway Calteaux, Borrowing involves the adoption of a word from another language and adapting it to the phonological and morphological modes of the target language. This process is known as nativisation. Most of the borrowing process tends to involve technical terms, which are frequently adopted in the dominant languages, particularly where the dominant language has assumed national or official status or is used in technical areas.

Most borrowing involves nouns, but sometimes verbs and even functional words may be borrowed. Borrowing also takes place between dominant and minority languages; here the minority language adopts a word denoting an unfamiliar concept from the dominant language. Sometimes in its expansion the dominant language may incorporate words from minority languages.

Nurse recognises three linguistic Language Decline and Death in Africa 30 factors in language borrowing: what has been borrowed; the sociohistorical circumstances; and the mechanisms involved. The usual trend is for the weaker or less privileged languages to borrow from the more powerful or prestigious ones. Interference is the result of the influence of one language, usually the mother tongue, when another is spoken or learnt.

Language interference is most conspicuous when one speaks an ex-colonial language like English. The prosodic and phonological systems of the mother tongue may interfere to the extent that the diphthongs, vowel qualities or pronunciations of specific consonants are missed out or substituted by the nearest sound in the mother tongue.

Hence, we talk of an African accent. But it would be wrong to generalise that all Africans speak English or French in the same way as there are clear distinctions between Nigerian, Ghanaian or Kenyan English accents, just as there are conspicuous differences between Senegalese, Guinean or Congolese French accents. Summary and Conclusions The pattern of language choice and use in Africa is highly complex.

This is because most African people have several languages at their disposal which they use in different situations depending on the subject matter, their relationship with the interlocutor, the mode of communication, the context of discourse and other variables. There are also other language varieties, such as dialects and registers, from which they may choose the form that is most fitting in a given situation. However, the languages that Africans have at their disposal do not all have the same status, some being more prestigious than others.

Those which are prestigious are also the ones that are used in more formal, technical or public domains. The hierarchy favours the ex-colonial languages over the dominant languages. The minority languages are at the bottom of the hierarchical structure and are, in most countries, marginalised in that they are not accorded any public function or socio-economic prestige.

The current trend is, therefore, to an expanded use of the dominant languages at the expense of the ex-colonial and minority languages. In many Patterns of Language Use 31 countries, proficiency in the ex-colonial language has markedly diminished, particularly where the dominant language has gained ground.

The scramble for domains has intensified not only the phenomena of competition and conflict between languages but also the frequency of code-mixing, code-switching, borrowing and interference. As Smieja rightly observed, such cases are an indication that there is considerable dynamic interplay — or, put simply, push and pull — between languages, which may eventually result in some being overpowered. The end result of the linguistic dynamics at play in Africa will inevitably be the giving way by the weaker and less prestigious languages.

Hence, the only way the current trend of affairs can be influenced is for decision-makers not only to come up with policies that encourage the development and use of all languages at different levels, but also that these policies should be actively implemented and positive attitudes towards their own languages fostered in people. As long as speakers see some social status or socio-economic value in their languages, they will certainly wish to maintain them. Chapter 3 African Languages as a Resource The Different Roles and Functions of African Languages Most Africans, like people all over the world, tend to take languages for granted, just as they do the air that we breathe or the sun that we see rise every morning in the east.

This is because every society has a language which enables its members to communicate, interact and socialise.

Michael Cahill

One of the important features that distinguish human beings from other animals, say dolphins and chimpanzees, is the faculty of speech with which they are endowed. We associate speech with human communication because it is its primary function and the one which is most conspicuous. Thus, in most African societies we use language, in its communicative and interactive role, to exchange greetings in the morning, to talk to our neighbours about the news of the day, to discuss our various activities and to conduct our daily affairs, as well as to meet all other communicative needs.

We also use our languages in their written mode to read information from others and to keep abreast of international affairs. At the same time, we put down our ideas and wishes in writing for others to read. African languages, like all other languages in the world, have other functions which their speakers use.

The most important of these will be discussed in the remainder of this section. Cultural transmission Languages are vehicles through which cultural experiences are accumulated, stored and transmitted from one generation to another; hence the popular saying that language is a mirror of culture. Each African society has its own unique indigenous knowledge system. Every African society has a unique set of traditional practices which may involve complex kinship relations, stratified social structures, avoidance conditions, taboos, modes of politeness, codes of conduct, age and gender relations and so on.

In this way, African societies have developed rich cultures, which are embedded and transmitted through each language. Compare Sources Suggest information or improvement. Download language data Terms of Service for restrictions on the use of downloaded data.

Cancel Download. Learn more [PDF] Close. Few All Afrikaans All Critically Endangered percent certain, based on the evidence available 15 All N ng speakers use exclusively Afrikaans in their daily lives, and only speak N ng a few times a year when brought together by linguists. Moseley, Christopher ed. Paul ed. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 16 edn. Ui: Causality and Language Shift in Africa.

Bath, Foundation for Endangered Languages. Miller and Johanna Brugman. Somerville, Cascadilla Press. Batibo Herman M.

Definition

Mouton de Gruyter. N uu 'Au. OLAC search. Matthias Brenzinger. Critically Endangered percent certain, based on the evidence available. Critically Endangered 60 percent certain, based on the evidence available. Critically Endangered 20 percent certain, based on the evidence available. Austin, Peter. Lewis, M. Severely Endangered 20 percent certain, based on the evidence available. Critically Endangered 80 percent certain, based on the evidence available. Nigel Crawhall.

Sands, Bonny, Amanda L.