Funded by:

39th International LAUD Symposium

Multilingualism in Africa:

Language contact, endangerment and cultural conceptualisation


Conference dates:

21-24 August, 2023


Conference venue:

Butenschoen-Haus (Luitpoldstraße 8, 76829 Landau/Pfalz, Germany)

Landau is a small city surrounded by the Southern Wine Route district of the Southern Rhineland-Palatinate and close to the Black Forest (1 hour from Frankfurt airport)


Conference fees:

regular fee 90 EUR / reduced fee (students, PhD students) 45 EUR


Accommodation at the Butenschoen-Haus:

64.00 EUR per night (breakfast included)



Samuel Atechi | University of Yaoundé I, Cameroon

Susan Coetzee-van Rooy | North-West University, South Africa

Jacqueline Lück | Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Rajend Mesthrie | University of Cape Town, South Africa

Josef Schmied | Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany


Conference organisers:

Prof. Dr. Frank Polzenhagen

Dr. Monika Reif

Dr. Neele Mundt



Preliminary conference programme:

Theme Session 1: Multilingualism, translanguaging and language contact in Africa

The Symposium challenges the idea of languages as discrete, countable entities and favours the concept of translanguaging as a new approach to multilingualism. Translanguaging assumes that bilinguals/multilinguals have only one complex linguistic repertoire from which they select features that are socioculturally appropriate. Thus, this session is concerned with the nature of the translanguaging repertoires of people in the African continent (African languages, varieties of African Englishes, pidgin and creole languages, languages of wider communication, etc.) by focussing on language policy/planning issues, language contact phenomena (such as borrowing, codeswitching and codemixing) as well as linguistic landscape studies, i.e. issues of visual multilingualism in the public space.


Sub-themes in theme session 1:

  • multilingualism, translanguaging and polyglossia in urban and rural Africa
  • effects of the spread of English from colonialism to the “New World Order”
  • language policy/planning, ideologies and attitudes
  • linguistic landscapes in urban African spaces
  • the sociolinguistics of the city
  • African languages in legislation and policies
  • language contact and diversity: codeswitching, codemixing, borrowing
  • sociolinguistic investigations of pidgin and creole languages
  • languages of wider communication
  • African sign languages


Theme session 2: Language endangerment and language-in-education policies in Africa

This session examines the richness and complexity of linguistic diversity and language contact situations from the perspective of language endangerment, with a focus on case studies from various nations in Africa. In this regard, topics such as the diversification of languages, their adaptation to new ecologies, and the relation between linguistic and biological diversity (i.e. ecolinguistics) will be at the centre of discussion. In the context of globalisation, the impact of English (as well as French and Portuguese) on indigenous, African languages in different parts of Africa will be explored. The contemporary global processes of socio-cultural, economic and environmental disruption represent a threat to the world’s and Africa’s fast-declining linguistic diversity. Strongly connected with the issue of endangered languages is the status and use of languages for educational purposes, including the issue of language rights. Still, most African governments hold on to exoglossic language policies in their educational systems, and the majority of African children therefore continue to be taught in European languages that are foreign to them. Millions of children in Africa do not get instruction in their first language. Thus, there is a dramatic sociolinguistic discontinuity between their pre-school cognitive categories and the more abstract re-categorisation which the primary school normally effectuates. Therefore, the current discussion of mother-tongue education vs. learning via non-African, European languages as media of instruction in Africa has always been and still continues to remain a highly controversial debate.


Sub-themes in theme session 2:

  • early developments: colonial language-in-education policies
  • linguistic implications of colonisation and decolonisation
  • language, ecology and environment (ecolinguistics)
  • linguistic diversity and endangerment: case studies
  • Eurocentrism vs. perspectives from within Africa
  • modernity and the globalisation of English/French: the fate of African languages
  • language policy, inequity and linguistic human rights
  • critique of the endangered-languages movement: the cost and benefit approach to language loss
  • the empowerment of African languages
  • feminist language planning: women and voice in Africa
  • attitudes, beliefs and ethnic identity
  • documentary linguistics
  • the place and role of African languages in education (health, economy, governance, technology, and law)
  • the mother tongue-based education debate
  • media, information technology and language planning


Theme session 3: Cultural Linguistics and varieties of African Englishes

One of the more recent strands or orientations in Cognitive Linguistics refers to the newly developed field of Cultural Linguistics, a multidisciplinary area of research that explores the relationship between language and cultural conceptualisations and its key notions of cultural cognition, cultural schema, cultural category, and cultural metaphor. The analytical tools of Cultural Linguistics can produce in-depth and insightful investigations into the cultural grounding of language in several domains and subdisciplines, including New Englishes such as West African English. This session focusses on the “global localisation” of African Englishes, i.e. the localisation of the English language by indigenous populations to encode and express their own cultural conceptualisations, including their world views. Varieties of English provide rich data regarding how one and the same language may be associated with different systems of cultural conceptualisations, and this phenomenon needs much further examination, in particular from an empirical perspective. It also has far-reaching implications for the description of these varieties, i.e. for the compilation of variety-specific dictionaries.


Sub-themes in theme session 3:

  • anthropological linguistics and cognitive linguistics
  • language and conceptualisation: the African community model
  • the debate of post-colonial English: cultural models of global languages
  • rationalist and romantic conceptions of language
  • African cultural conceptualisations and linguistic expressions
  • cultural linguistics and religion in Africa
  • cultural conceptualisations in African Englishes
  • cultural linguistics and intercultural communication
  • cultural linguistics and linguistic relativity
  • multimodality of expression of emotions in African languages
  • embodied conceptualisation of e.g. 'feeling' as compared to the Western notion of 'emotion'
  • embodied cultural metaphors
  • the creation of electronic dictionaries in lexicography, computational linguistics and intercultural communication


The Symposium will be organised as plenary sessions for keynote addresses from invited speakers and thematic parallel sessions for presentations of papers.

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