[lg policy] Ukolonia in African Language Policies and Practices

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 11 16:04:17 UTC 2011

Ukolonia in African Language Policies and Practices
Eyamba G. Bokamba
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

1. Introduction

Several sociolinguistic theories, including “rationalization”
necessitated by pervasive
multilingualism (Bamgbose 1991, among others),“elite closure”
(Myers-Scotton 1993), “strategic
game theory” (Laitin 1992), and “ukolonia” (Bokamba 2007), have been
proposed in the African
sociolinguistic literature to account for the current neo-colonialist
African language policies. To my
knowledge, there has not been a critical evaluation of these theories
to ascertain their validity and
explanatory power relative to each other in accounting for the facts
of African language policy
practices. For example, which of them accounts best for the African
language outcomes and why? Are
there independent pieces of evidence within or external to most of
these policies to support some or
any of the postulated “theories”, or are most of them based on mere assumptions?

This paper1 considers these questions, among others, and offers a
critical analysis of most of these
theories by examining each of them and demonstrating their weaknesses.
The evaluation draws on,
among others, selected historical documents from the colonial era in
justification of colonialist
policies, an examination of the actual language planning process, and
of other socio-political decisions
taken by a sample of African politicians. For the latter the paper
draws on recent social sciences
research that Africanist linguists generally do not take into
consideration in their analyses. Based on
this cross-disciplinary research, the paper demonstrates that
rationalization and elite closure have no
explanatory power for the prevailing African language policies and
actual practices: They represent,
instead, outcomes of political inaction informed by the syndrome of
ukolonia generally that is equally
applicable in other African spheres of governance. In addition, it is
argued that while strategic game
theory is potentially applicable to African language policies in
general, there is no evidence of its
actual application to the status quo states. In conclusion, the paper
presents ukolonia or kasumba2 as
the best theory to account for the existing exogenous and endogenous
African language policies.

The paper is organized into four main sections in addition to this
introduction and the conclusion.
Section (2) provides an overview of the current language policies in
the continent to account for these
outcomes. Section (3) summarizes the elite closure and strategic game
theories. Section (4) reviews
African language ecologies and the ideological underpinnings that
created the language policies of the
day. It then critiques the above-mentioned theories by showing their
limited strengths and major
empirical weaknesses as explanatory theories. After this
demonstration, the ukolonia theory is
presented and defended as the most likely best explanation for the
continent’s currently pervading
language policies and practices.

complete pdf at: http://www.lingref.com/cpp/acal/40/paper2572.pdf

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