The Power of Babel: Language in the African Experience

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Linguists estimate that there are nearly 2000 languages in Africa, a figure that is belied by the relatively few national languages. This book studies the complex linguistic constellations of Africa, examining 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 authors 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; and the third section presents a set of regional studies, which centre on the Swahili language's exemplification of the triple heritage.