Language in a multicultural context: The african experience

Alamin M. Mazrui, Ali A. Mazrui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The cultural interplay in Africa between indigenous, Islamic and Western legacies has given rise to four language types which we have described as Afro–ethnic, Afro–Islamic, Afro–Western and Western. After providing a working definition of these types, we proceed to look at their average tendencies and characteristics in the areas of writing, geographical spread, demographic distribution and functional value. For a while these types existed in relative distributive and functional complementarity within the continental constellation of languages. However, new economic, political and cultural forces have acted in concert to infuse a spirit of linguistic competition in social domains, roles and functions and in creating new sociolinguistic dynamics and formations. In the process Afro-Islamic languages have become secularised after passing through an ecumenical stage, while, among the Western languages, English has continued to expand its hold on the African continent in general. And as western technology is creating some linguistic competition for Western languages, the western legacy as a whole continues to have a universalising impact on language in Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-98
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage and Education
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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