Power of language in the spotlight


The power of language comes under the spotlight in a four-day conference starting in Grahamstown tomorrow, hosted by Rhodes University’s African Language Studies Section in the School of Languages and Literatures.

The School holds the prestigious NRF South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) on Intellectualisation of African Languages, Multilingualism and Education, and this conference focuses on its mission to undertake scientific and innovative research on African languages. Professor Russell Kaschula leads the project, which promotes multilingualism in fostering meaningful participation by citizens in all spheres of society – starting with education.



The promotion of indigenous languages, the use of language in academia, language trends, new dialects, language as a power dynamic, and African literature brings five Southern African language associations together in Grahamstown this week: African Languages Association of Southern Africa, African Association for Lexicography, Southern African Applied Linguistics Association, South African Association for Language Teaching, and Linguistics Society of Southern Africa.

Children from Grahamstown schools listen intently during a storytelling session at the isiXhosa story festival, Puku, in Grahamstown earlier this year. Photo: Sue Maclennan

The ground-breaking engagement from Monday 26- Wednesday 28 June follows the success of the recent African Literature Colloquium.


This week, more than 300 delegates will descend on Grahamtown, with scholars talking about their research in their different cultures, from Zimbabwe to Germany and the US. Most of South Africa’s universities will be represented. Postgraduate students from the Rhodes School of Languages will be afforded the opportunity to present their research in front of seasoned language scholars.

The interdisciplinary conference does not only focus on language in academia, however. It also looks at topics such as Sesotho and isiXhosa school textbooks, second language acquisition, child language development, and the language of law and other socio-economic institutions.

The conference starts at 8.30am on Monday 25 June in the Barratt Lecture Theatre with opening addresses by Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, Makana Mayor Nomhle Gaga, Professor Russell Kaschula and Dr Mantoa Motinyane-Masoko, Chairperson of the African Languages Association of Southern Africa.

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