Language planning in West Africa - who writes the script?


  • Friederike Lüpke


Rather than focusing on capacity building, this paper concentrates on the even more fundamental aspect of capacity detecting, culminating in the question of how inherent capacities of language communities, once discovered, can be instrumental for the preservation and development of their language. The issue in question is the informal use of a script based on Arabic characters instead of the Roman alphabet for the writing of at least five African languages throughout West Africa, among them Fula, Hausa, Wolof, Manding and Susu. The use of this script, and the resulting literary tradition, have been overlooked or dismissed by most institutions charged with language planning in the relevant regions. Sadly, rather than illustrating the successful detection and implementation of such indigenous literacies, this paper points to a consistent Eurocentric bias present in the failure to recognise West African writing traditions which have both a long history and are still very much alive. I conclude with a plea to language documenters and language planners to watch out for local capacities, to take them seriously, and to integrate them into their efforts to strengthen endangered languages. Before taking a closer look at the particular situations, I will introduce the problems of literacy and...


West Africalanguage planningcapacity detectinglanguage communitiesliterary traditionendangered languageslanguage preservationwriting systemsscriptsliteracyorthographyFulaHausaWolofMandingSusulanguage documentationEurocentrism
  • Year: 2004
  • Volume: 2
  • Page/Article: 90-107
  • DOI: 10.25894/ldd293
  • Published on 31 Jul 2014