Languages of Africa

Tucker Childs

in Linguistics

ISBN: 9780199772810
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Languages of Africa

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  • Linguistics
  • Anthropological Linguistics
  • Language Families
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The study of African languages has a history dating back to the 17th century when Europeans first began exploring the continent. This long history, unfortunately, has been marred by ideological biases persisting into the mid-20th century. Early studies were written by missionaries and explorers, and Christian missionaries today continue such work. The 19th century featured the birth of the “Hamitic Hypothesis” in the publications of Lepsius, developed later by Meinhof, another famous German scholar. Lepsius, for example, attributed the more “advanced” features of African languages to influences from Caucasian languages. The expanded study of African languages is relatively recent, advancing with the spread of generative theory, which used African languages importantly in its development. Scholarship on African languages qua African languages is more prolific in Europe than in North America not only because of the colonial past but also because of the greater focus on African studies versus theoretical linguistics. (It should be mentioned that the following references do not treat Malagasy, spoken only on the island of Madagascar, or the many varieties of Arabic spoken in the northern part of the continent, and may depend more heavily on European rather than North American sources.)

Article.  8568 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Anthropological Linguistics ; Language Families ; Psycholinguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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