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The dominance of Wolof as a lingua franca in urban Senegal : a threat to minority languages and language communities

Current levels of language loss around the globe are unprecedented. With more than half of the world's languages thought to be endangered to the extent that there will be no speakers of these languages within the near future, the study of language threat and endangerment is more essential than ever (Krauss, 2000). The reason for such unprecedented language endangerment has come as a direct result of increased globalization, where people and the languages they speak have the ability to move throughout the world and communicate with literally anyone, anywhere, at any time. Furthermore, an ever-globalizing economy has created a space whereby a few languages have garnered extreme power and prestige, which inspires the envy of speakers of minority languages as they see the economic benefits of being able to speak a language of wider communication. The global dominance and influence of English and the implications for other languages throughout the world are well-documented (See Crystal, 2005; Phillipson, 1992; Dalby, 2003). However, the ever-growing 'prestige' and dominance of African languages of wider communication (e.g. Swahili, Hausa, Wolof), and the threat they pose to minority languages, has not been as adequately documented. Thus, while these powerful and dominant languages are spreading rapidly, hundreds of minority languages in Africa are disappearing at an alarming rate, taking with them important cultural heritage (e.g., history, folklore, literature, and music) and a unique ,. understanding of the local flora, fauna, and ecosystem. The trend is overwhelming, and almost certainly unstoppable, and it is becoming a worrying development for minority communities, linguists and advocates for the linguistic rights of minorities. Although researchers in African linguistics have made great progress in the description of minority languages at all levels, there has been little work done that addressed the sociolinguistics of minority language communities in urban Africa. This study sets out to investigate the implications of the dominance of Wolof for minority languages in urban Senegal. The study adopts a multidimensional approach in response to the kinds of data required, the participants involved and the social and cultural context. This entails adopting several different specific methodological approaches of data collection and analysis in order to capture the changing pattern of language use and language attitudes. The analysis of language use data shows that many of the minority languages are losing their grip in the home domain due to a breakdown of intergenerational transmission. This has resulted in the younger generation increasingly shifting to Wolof and no longer learning their language of heritage. Although none of the respondents in our study had Wolof as a mother tongue by origin, the majority of the younger respondents identified with Wolof as their mother tongue by competence (the language they know best) and function (the language they use most). The sociolinguistic analysis outlined in this study, though not exhaustive, reveals a very precarious situation for minority languages and their speakers in urban Senegal. The predominance of Wolof in urban Senegal is beginning to change the linguistic landscape of urban centres, and there is nothing, that guarantees minority communities in towns and cities, that there will be continuity of their languages beyond the present generation.
Date January 2014
CreatorsFaal, Salifu
PublisherUniversity of Essex
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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