Lüpke, Friederike / Storch, Anne
Repertoires and Choices in African Languages
Aims and Scope
Most African languages are spoken by communities as one of several languages present on a daily basis. The persistence of multilingualism and the linguistic creativity manifest in the playful use of different languages are striking, especially against the backdrop of language death and expanding monolingualism elsewhere in the world. The effortless mastery of several languages is disturbing, however, for those who take essentialist perspectives that see it as a problem rather than a resource, and for the dominating, conflictual, sociolinguistic model of multilingualism. This volume investigates African minority languages in the context of changing patterns of multilingualism, and also assesses the status of African languages in terms of existing influential vitality scales. An important aspect of multilingual praxis is the speakers' agency in making choices, their repertoires of registers and the multiplicity of language ideology associated with different ways of speaking. The volume represents a new and original contribution to the ethnography of speaking of multilingual practices and the cultural ideas associated with them.
In this ambitious book, Friederike Lüpke and Anne Storch seek to counter the common view, based in a nineteenth-century European romantic nationalism, that sees language as the essentialized expression of a monolingual, homogeneous ethnic community. The authors argue instead for a focus on multilingualism and the complex repertoires of ways of speaking that are situated in the lived relations and practices of social life. Although concerned with Africa - primarily though not exclusively sub-Saharan Africa - much of their discussion applies equally well to other parts of the world. It raises important questions about linguists' methodologies, which Lüpkeand Storch see as largely failing to grasp the complexity and fluidity of the linguistic resources speakers draw on in their many social roles, groupings and activities.
- Judith T. Irvine, Times Literary Supplement
Repertoires and Choices in African Languages (RCAL) will interest not only Africanists but also specialists in other geographical areas and those generally concerned with language endangerment and language documentation.The authors, Friederike Lüpke and Anne Storch, are two of the finest scholars working on African languages today and two of the most reflective thinkers in this field. The breadth and depth of their research records (they call themselves, somewhat modestly, ‘fieldworkers’) are both exemplary, and together constitute a whole that any two other scholars would find difficult to replicate. Moreover, their ideological orientation brings to bear a critical perspective that has been largely absent from research on the continent. Importantly, they stimulate us to become reflective practitioners with regard to both language documentation and revitalization. Africanists, as well as researchers in other parts of the world, would do well to follow the lessons of the essays contained in RCAL.
- G. Tucker Childs, Portland State University