• Home
  • (P42) Africa: (socio-)linguistics
Time passed:

(P42) Hunter-gatherers in sub-Saharan Africa: a (socio-)linguistic perspective

Convenors: Karsten Legère, Göteborgs Universitet, Austria; Ilaria Micheli, University of Trieste

Abstract: The session deals with hunter-gatherer problems from a (socio-) linguistic perspective. Its focus is on ethnic and linguistic identity, language maintenance, erosion and shift. The suggested place profile is mainly East Africa, but the situation in Equatorial and Southern Africa should also be addressed.

Keywords: languages and communities, East, Central and Southern Africa, endangered languages, identity, marginalisation

Format: standard panel, short talks

Precirculated materials: DoBeS archive, Akie entry


The session focuses primarily on the role of language as an important marker of ethnic identity, self-identification and the shifting process. This generally accepted principle is particularly relevant for the HG communities and languages where speaker numbers are small and further declining. Given the dynamics of eroding linguistic competence and language maintenance among hunter-gatherers, an interdisciplinary approach for addressing the state-of-the-art, as well as the perspective of on-going processes, is a session priority. Special attention will be paid to the East African situation and to invited panelists who are familiar with this region. The session is, however, also open to contributions which deal with HG communities in Equatorial and Southern Africa. Hence, cross-fertilisation in capturing similarities as well as regional features of language shift is expected to attract specialists who i.a. study the Baka in Cameroon or Bushman languages in the South. Topics to be addressed by panelists at the session include:

  • external and internal factors for HG’s language shifts such as
    • prestigious vs. non-prestigious languages,
    • the HG marginalisation process and its effect on highly endangered languages,
    • the vulnerability of HG languages as the result of socio-economic changes,
    • bi- and multilingualism as a linguistic survival strategy
    • inter-generational transfer of languages, and
    • official and grassroots position towards HG languages
  • the (socio-) linguistic contribution to record as many facets as possible of the rich cultural heritage and traditional knowledge
  • the importance of archival collections (DoBeS Nijmegen, ELAR London) for making HG language documentation results available

This session is a follow-up to the CHAGS XI session “Oral Tradition, Sociolinguistics, Language Contact in HG societies,” where discussion of some topics envisaged here was initiated.




When you click on this link, you'll be taken to EasyChair. Open an account > "enter as an author" > "Select a track" from the list of sessions > fill in the submission form > "Submit". Step-by-step details here.