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Considering heteroglossia in language and development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Rassool, N. (2014) Considering heteroglossia in language and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2014 (225). pp. 51-73. ISSN 0165-2516

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1515/ijsl-2013-0065


Countries throughout the sub-Saharan (SSA) region have a complex linguistic heritage having their origins in opportunistic boundary changes effected by Western colonial powers at the Berlin Conference 1884-85. Postcolonial language-in-education policies valorizing ex-colonial languages have contributed at least in part to underachievement in education and thus the underdevelopment of human resources in SSA countries. This situation is not likely to improve whilst unresolved questions concerning the choice of language(s) that would best support social and economic development remain. Whilst policy attempts to develop local languages have been discussed within the framework of the African Union, and some countries have experimented with models of multilingual education during the past decade, the goalposts have already changed as a result of migration and trade. This paper argues that language policy makers need to be cognizant of changing language ecologies and their relationship with emerging linguistic and economic markets. The concept of language, within such a framework, has to be viewed in relation to the multiplicity of language markets within the shifting landscapes of people, culture, economics and the geo-politics of the 21st Century. Whilst, on the one hand, this refers to the hegemony of dominant powerful languages and the social relations of disempowerment, on the other hand, it also refers to existing and evolving social spaces and local language capabilities and choices. Within this framework the article argues that socially constructed dominant macro language markets need to be viewed also in relation to other, self-defined, community meso- and individual micro- language markets and their possibilities for social, economic and political development. It is through pursuing this argument that this article assesses the validity of Omoniyi’s argument in this volume, for the need to focus on the concept of language capital within multilingual contexts in the SSA region as compared to Bourdieu’s concept of linguistic capital.  

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Language and Literacy in Education
ID Code:26633
Publisher:De Gruyter Mouton

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