The Power of Babel: Language and Governance in the African Experience
University of Chicago Press, Aug 3, 1998 - Foreign Language Study - 228 pages
Linguists estimate that there are currently nearly 2,000 languages in Africa, a staggering figure that is belied by the relatively few national languages. While African national politics, economics, and law are all conducted primarily in the colonial languages, the cultural life of the majority of citizens is conducted in a bewildering Babel of local and regional dialects, making language itself the center of debates over multiculturalism, gender studies, and social theory. In The Power of Babel, the noted Africanist scholar Ali Mazrui and linguist Alamin Mazrui explore this vast territory of African language.
The Power of Babel is one of the first comprehensive studies of the complex linguistic constellations of Africa. It draws on Ali Mazrui's earlier work in its examination of the "triple heritage" of African culture, in which indigenous, Islamic, and Western traditions compete for influence. In bringing the idea of the triple heritage to language, the Mazruis unravel issues of power, culture, and modernity as they are embedded in African linguistic life.
The first section of the book takes a global perspective, exploring such issues as the Eurocentrism of much linguistic scholarship on Africa; part two takes an African perspective on a variety of issues from the linguistically disadvantaged position of women in Africa to the relation of language policy and democratic development; the third section presents a set of regional studies, centering on the Swahili language's exemplification of the triple heritage.The Power of Babel unites empirical information with theories of nationalism and pluralism—among others—to offer the richest contextual account of African languages to date.
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acquired administration African American African countries African languages African nations Afrikaans Afro-ethnic languages Afro-Islamic languages Afro-Western languages Ali Mazrui Amharic Anglophone Arabic language areas assimilation Baganda Bantu became become bilingual British century Christian civilization colonial communication Congo continued counter-penetration cultural democracy democratic diaspora East Africa economic elite English and Kiswahili English language ethnic languages Eurocentric European languages example factor Fanon favour French language Gikuyu global Hausa heritage identity impact imperial language indigenous languages integration Islamic Kenya Kiswahili language policy languages in Africa lingua franca linguistic nationalism major Mazrui missionaries Muslim Nairobi national language nationalist native speakers Ngugi official language oral pan-African parliament partly pidgin political population post-colonial president promotion racial regarded religion role schools script Semitic social society Somali sometimes South Africa speak spread Swahili Swahili language Tanzania tradition Uganda universities urban vernacular West Western languages women words