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Subjected words: African linguistics and the colonial encounter

Authors
Journal
Language & Communication
0271-5309
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
28
Issue
4
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.langcom.2008.02.001
Keywords
  • African Languages
  • History Of Linguistics
  • Colonialism
  • Language Ideologies
  • Missionaries
  • Ethnolinguistic Groups
Disciplines
  • Linguistics
  • Political Science

Abstract

Abstract The systematic study of African languages emerged in the 19th century as a scientific field along with other European projects of information-gathering, religious proselytizing, and establishing an imperial presence on the continent. This paper considers how the conditions – ideological, social, and material – of linguistic research in the early colonial encounter influenced the resulting descriptions of African languages and the delimitation of linguistic boundaries. Frameworks and precedents from those early projects have remained influential in African linguistics, for example in the identification of ‘ethnolinguistic groups,’ in the shape of grammatical descriptions, and in the politics of orthography.

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