Title

French, Wolof and the Politics of National Language in Postcolonial Senegal

Presenter

Aly Counsell

Abstract

Language is an agent of power with an immense capacity to structure the way that people think. Designations of national language reveal information about the political values and power structures of a society, which can be particularly complicated in previously-colonized nations. In 1960, Senegal became an independent country after nearly two centuries as a colony of France. Though French remains Senegal's official national language, it is most often associated with politicians, business people, tourists and the urban elite. It is almost exclusively spoken by those with a formal education. In contrast, local languages such as Wolof, Serer, Pulaar and Jola are spoken as first languages among various ethnic groups throughout Senegal. Tensions between speakers of French and local languages, particularly Wolof, Senegal's most widely spoken language, have led to ongoing conversations among Senegalese scholars and activists about the future of language recognition in the country. My presentation addresses these issues.

Faculty Sponsor

Rachel George, Adeline Rother

Tracks

Power and Politics

Terms of Use

ARMINDA Terms of Use

Location

Olin 138

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Research Funding Source or OCS Program

Global Citizen Year

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Apr 11th, 2:45 PM Apr 11th, 3:00 PM

French, Wolof and the Politics of National Language in Postcolonial Senegal

Olin 138

Language is an agent of power with an immense capacity to structure the way that people think. Designations of national language reveal information about the political values and power structures of a society, which can be particularly complicated in previously-colonized nations. In 1960, Senegal became an independent country after nearly two centuries as a colony of France. Though French remains Senegal's official national language, it is most often associated with politicians, business people, tourists and the urban elite. It is almost exclusively spoken by those with a formal education. In contrast, local languages such as Wolof, Serer, Pulaar and Jola are spoken as first languages among various ethnic groups throughout Senegal. Tensions between speakers of French and local languages, particularly Wolof, Senegal's most widely spoken language, have led to ongoing conversations among Senegalese scholars and activists about the future of language recognition in the country. My presentation addresses these issues.

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