P174
Managing linguistic diversity in the African city

Convenors:
Mohomodou Houssouba (University of Basel)
Natalie Tarr (University of Basel, Switzerland)
Gabriele Slezak (University of Vienna )
Format:
Panels
Location:
PG215
Start time:
30 June, 2017 at 9:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

African cities are diverse settings producing new linguistic dynamics. This diversity is often not acknowledged as a city may be identified with only one language. This bias will be analyzed along with the role of ICT in enabling linguistic diversity and equitable access to resources.

Long abstract:

Africa is still associated with great linguistic diversity. About one third of the world's languages are spoken there. However, recent surveys point to a fast-paced extinction of many idioms. Then just about 10% of these languages will have survived by 2100. The process involves a complex interplay of factors, among which rapid urbanization. To be sure, the exponential growth in cities reshapes the sociolinguistic map of the continent. For example, capital and major cities become economic and cultural magnets that often bring together different linguistic groups in varying but fundamentally hierarchical relationships. Curiously, there is usually little consideration beyond the binary majority (popular) language and the official (foreign) language. Then it is worth asking: To what extent has linguistic diversity been present in thinking the African city? How visible are local languages on street signs, billboards and in official documentation? How are coexisting languages handled in bilingual education programs (e.g. primary school)? Which roles do communication technologies play in bringing services to multilingual urban populations? The proposed panel will analyze the issues from different perspectives - from language contact to ICT and digital solutions designed to enable universal access to services. The participants will seek to pinpoint the general trends in language death, survival or even empowerment in urban contexts, to question established theories, and bring in new perspectives on the growing impact of mobile telephony and internet in reshuffling the social, economic and cultural life of the city.