Languages, Cultures and Linguistics
SOAS University of London
Lutz Marten is professor of linguistics at SOAS University of London. Since 2020, he has sat in the role of editor of the Transactions of the Philological Society. Lutz Marten is interested in human language: how language is structured and used, how languages differ and change over time, and how language is linked to culture, society, history, identity, and other domains of human life, but focusing on descriptive, comparative and theoretical linguistics, empirically grounded.
The first quarter of the 21st century has already seen dramatic changes – growing globalisation, accelerated climate change, and the Covid-19 pandemic, to mention only a few. These dynamics and events had also a profound effect on African linguistic landscapes and discourses. The representation, role and ideological positions of African languages in many countries and societies of the continent has changed significantly over the last 25 years or so.
In this talk I first contextualise these developments in colonial legacies and contemporary decolonising discourses and in what may be called an African language renaissance, as well as in my own positionality as on outsider, researcher and learner of African languages. I will then look at examples of African languages across social domains – in the public linguistic landscape, in education, health, legal discourses, and development. Drawing on these examples I will discuss different perspectives on these developments, including the dynamics between community languages, world languages and new languages, translanguaging, the role of new and social media, and possible political implications of the developments in the future: the increase of ethno-linguistic nationalism, the rise of federal, liberal states harnessing multilingualism, or the decline of the notion of the nation state.