May 28, 2019 12:00 am - May 29, 2019 12:00 am
Africa | United Republic of Tanzania | Dodoma | University of Dodoma, School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Conferences / Advisory
Africa is home to 13 % of the world population and to nearly a third of its languages that makes it the most linguistically diverse region in the world. The top 18 most linguistically diverse countries are found here. This exceptional linguistic diversity received considerable attention from not only linguists and anthropologists but also from economists, political scientists, and psychologists. Since the middle of the 20th century researchers have been studying the impact of ethnolinguistic diversity on social, political and economic development in African countries.
The earlier research suggests that ethnolinguistc diversity correlates with poor government policies, economic grievances, and civil conflicts. This stigmatization heavily influenced national development agendas as well as language policies that seek to promote national languages including ex-colonial languages and to eradicate indigenous languages that are considered to be one of the main obstacles on the way to economic prosperity and social wellbeing of African nations. This is the reality where speakers of indigenous African languages find themselves nowadays. Often they are ashamed or even afraid to use their mother tongues and to pass them to the next generations. Many of them do not see any importance in maintaining languages of their ancestors because they are not linked to education and job opportunities. Instead indigenous speakers tend to shift to national languages. As a consequence indigenous languages are being marginalized and undergo functional and structural erosion.
However recent research in language economy has shown that ethnolinguistic diversity is rather a general term for a set of factors then a factor on its own. Such factors as arbitrary state borders on African continent inherited from colonial past, social norms that emphasize kinship and familial ties over objective performance at work, strategic manipulation of ethnic identities and national languages in polarized societies with large minority groups are to a wider extent responsible for economic and social misery than the use of indigenous languages per se. It was also understood that the value of linguistic diversity cannot be measured through a rigid grid of pre-established economic variables such as income rate or GDP per capita. It was observed that indigenous languages contribute to the preservation of biodiversity ensuring sustainable use of resources in vulnerable environments. Planned and well thought management of indigenous languages might be one of the ways out of the ecological crisis that the world entered in the 20th century.
This ambiguous relationship between linguistic diversity and the urge for economic development in Africa is the core topic of the conference. Special attention will be paid to the place and role of African indigenous languages in the industrialization agendas of developing countries as well as their potential to help governments and NGOs reach the Millennium development goals.