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The Languages of Africa and the Diaspora Educating for Language Awareness Edited by: Jo Anne Kleifgen, George C. Bond

Paperback - 312 pages
17 Feb 2009
Multilingual Matters
210 x 148 (A5)


This book examines the social cost of linguistic exceptionalism for the education of speakers of nondominant/subordinated languages in Africa and the African diaspora. The contributors take the languages of Africa, the Caribbean, and the US as cases in point to illustrate the effects of exceptionalist beliefs that these languages are inadequate for instructional purposes. They describe contravening movements toward various forms of linguistic diversity both inside and outside of school settings across these regions. Different theoretical lenses and a range of empirical data are brought to bear on investigating the role of these languages in educational policies and practices. Collectively, the chapters in this volume make the case for a comprehensive language awareness to remedy the myths of linguistic exceptionalism and to advance the affirmative dimensions of linguistic diversity.


This is a rich collection of generally convergent, stimulating takes on the “Creole Exceptionalism” thesis. Extending it to African languages and African American English, most of the authors show the disastrous consequences of underrating and marginalizing these vernaculars in school. Other contributors apply the thesis to the profiling of African Americans, making it obvious that attitudes to these varieties reflect social prejudice toward their speakers. Still others show how a better understanding of structural and stylistic peculiarities of these vernaculars can be used profitably in education and the promotion of their speakers. Sadly, both contemporary Black Africa and its Diaspora still suffer from the European colonization’s legacy of devaluating the languages and manners of the subjugated populations, thereby disenfranchising them!
Salikoko S. Mufwene, The Frank J. McLoraine Distinguished Service Professor of Linguistics and the College, University of Chicago.

This is a remarkable collection of articles that make a unique and important contribution to scholarship on language, learning, and linguistic diversity in Africa and the diaspora. Key researchers in the field address an exciting range of topics, from language policy and community libraries, to African American English and Creole as a regional language. It will be of great interest to applied linguists, language educators, and language planners.
Bonny Norton, Professor and Distinguished University Scholar, University of British Columbia.

This deeply informed and solidly grounded inquiry provides an illuminating perspective into the nature, variety, and social and cultural setting of languages of Africa and the diaspora, and implications for instruction and language policy. A very valuable contribution.
Noam Chomsky

Author Biography:

Jo Anne Kleifgen is Associate Professor of Linguistics and Education and co-directs the Center for Multiple Languages and Literacies at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her interests include discourse in multilingual classrooms, the use of new technologies to support Haitian and Latino bilingualism/biliteracy and communicative practices in high-tech, multilingual workplace settings.; George Clement Bond is the Director of the Center for African Education and William F. Russell Professor for Anthropology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. His interests include education and elite formation in the United States and Africa, African studies, African religions and politics, agrarian transformations and cultural dimensions of urban and minority populations.

Readership Level:

Postgraduate, Research / Professional, Undergraduate

Table of Contents

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