Friday, June 17, 2016


This is the fourth in a string of posts on conferences and workshops relevant to, or specifically addressing, African languages. Only one event of all of those mentioned, however, is in Africa. More on that at the end of the post, but first the three upcoming conferences for which there are active CFPs (calls for papers/participation). The subject of the first, LESEWA, is on similarities between a number of West African and East Asian languages - a theme that has long interested me as a learner of Bambara and Chinese (Mandarin). The latter two deal with a broad set of languages of generally disadvantaged status and fewer speakers, among which many African languages can be counted. The first two events are the latest of long-running conference series; the third is brand new.


The International Conference on Languages of Far East, Southeast Asia and West Africa (LESEWA) will be held in Moscow, Russia on 16-17 November 2016. This is the latest in a series of biennial conferences that began in 1990 (I am told that the idea began with Prof. Vadim Kasevich and colleagues). The CFP deadline is 1 July 2016.

LESEWA "will focus on the remarkable far-reaching parallelism in syntactic and semantic structures of the languages of the Far East, Southeast Asia and West Africa, which can be explained neither by genealogical affinity, nor by aerial factors. Both individual language investigations and typological studies are encouraged. General phonetic and general linguistics themes are especially welcome."


FEL XX Hyderabad (the 20th conference of the Foundation for Endangered Languages) will be held at the University of Hyderabad in India on 2-5 December 2016. Its theme is "Language colonization and endangerment: Long-term effects, echoes and reactions." The CFP deadline has been moved back to 1 July 2016 (the conference date was also changed).

FEL XX "aims to examine language endangerment during the colonial era, and the impact of colonization on the subsequent efforts of the independent nations and communities to revitalize their language heritage. The conference will look at continuity and change in approaches to language use." The concept of "colonialism" is broad, including not only expansion of European rule, but also historically earlier periods of domination by one people over others.


The First International Conference on Revitalization of Indigenous and Minoritized Languages will be held in Barcelona, Spain, on 19-21 April 2017. It is co-sponsored by the Universitat de Barcelona, Universitat de Vic-Universitat Central de Catalunya, and Indiana University-Bloomington. The deadline for proposals is 30 July 2016.

"The mission of the conference is to bring together instructors, practitioners, activists, Indigenous leaders, scholars and learners who speak and study these [indigenous and minoritized] languages. This international conference includes research, pedagogy and practice about the diverse languages and cultures of Indigenous and minoritized populations worldwide."

Language conferences and Africa

As noted above, of the nine events spotlighted in this and the previous three posts, all but one are outside of Africa (that one is in South Africa). To be fair, not all of them deal specifically with African languages. But in general one may fairly ask how many conferences on languages and linguistics - be they Africa focused or global in scope - take place in Africa, one of the most multilingual continents. No clear answer to offer here, but if one were to do a count, it might help to go about the task with attention to types of conferences - academic vs. policy vs. workshop-type - and to the subjects - general or focused on Africa. I have the impression that quite a number of events - conferences, expert meetings, etc. - dealing with policy and practical aspects of African language use have been held in various parts of Africa, as one would expect. On the other hand, academic conferences, whatever the topic - even African languages and linguistics - are more frequent in the Northern countries due to the number of institutions and scholars, and resources available to them for convening such events. General conferences on topics like ICT4D or endangered languages might be located anywhere, and conference series with significant African content and potential participation do seem to try to alternate regional locations to include some in Africa.

All of which is to say that my unscientific sampling of nine events may not tell us much about the choices of location of conferences on or relating to African languages. Nevertheless, it seemed worth addressing the topic given the apparent discrepancy in geographic representation.

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