Methodological Challenges in Studying African Linguistic Anthropology

Author: Benard Mwori Sorre (Moi University, Kenya)
Speaker: Benard Mwori Sorre
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


This paper aims at shedding light on the methodological challenges encountered when conducting research on African Linguistic Anthropology. Africa’s diverse linguistic  landscape and cultural complexity presents researchers with unique obstacles when conducting research in the field. Existing literature associates Africa with over  3,000 languages, which represents the most linguistically diverse continent globally. The paper explores challenges related to sampling, data collection, interpretation and ethical considerations, providing insights into navigating these complexities and ensuring culturally sensitive and rigorous research practices in African Linguistic Studies. Four of these challenges pertain to selecting a field site and acquiring access, recruiting and building trust, maintaining privacy and confidentiality, and being vulnerable as a researcher. Further, meta studies show that compared to leading general linguistics, African Linguistic Anthropology is lagging behind in adopting quantitative research methods. It is also essential to reflect on how anthropologists are conducting contemporary linguistic ethnography in multilingual settings. By acknowledging and addressing methodological challenges, scholars can enhance the quality and validity of their research findings, ensure that their work is contextually sensitive, respectful of local practices, and contribute to preservation and empowerment of African languages and cultures. By employing collaborative and reflexive research approaches, scholars can navigate these challenges and generate robust insights into intricate relationships between language, culture and society in Africa.

Keywords: Methodological, challenges, studying, African Linguistic Anthropology.