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Rhodes > English Language and Linguistics > Latest News

Transforming linguistics

Date Released: Tue, 23 February 2016 13:43 +0200

The Linguisitics Society of Southern Africa and Southern African Applied Linguistics Association held a very successful workshop from 20 to 22 January 2016 on transforming linguistics curricula.  The workshop entitled “Linguistics in a transforming South Africa: perspectives on curriculum, research and disciplinary practice” brought together representatives from North West University, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of the Free State, Tshwane University of Technology, University of Johannesburg, University of the Witwatersrand and Rhodes to discuss issues pertaining to transformation of linguistics curricula, research and the place of linguistics in higher education.  We reached a number of resolutions and will be taking these back to our departments and linguistics societies with the aim of starting these important conversations.  We will be meeting again next year to discuss progress.

The linguistic disciplines are articulated within a Southern African context characterized by rich linguistic diversity.  However this diversity exists within spaces intersected by complex linguistic power relations, English hegemony, prescriptive linguistic attitudes, social and economic exclusion, identity and aspirations among many others.  Some of these issues have been highlighted by more inclusive student demographics, by popular movements (both within higher education and in society more broadly), calls for rethinking the role of language in higher education and calls for decolonizing higher education.   While South African institutions of higher education have been transforming during the past 21 years of democracy (and before), recent political developments have brought many of these issues to the fore and have contested narratives of transformation, inclusivity and change.    Equally, there may be the possibility of threats to the transformational project, both from reactionary special-interest groups on left and right as well as from the imperative of the state to cater to the needs of economic development.  Against this backdrop, it is appropriate for linguists to proactively articulate the role and relevance of linguistics and the linguistic sub-disciplines within a transforming South Africa.   For these reasons the Linguistics Society of Southern Africa and the Southern African Applied Linguistics Association hosted the first summit of linguists to discuss these issues. 

Issues covered included:

  • The importance and relevance of linguistics curricula to a changing South Africa
  • What transformation means in different departmental contexts
  • Transformation of the student body
  • Transformation of linguistics curricula (broadly construed as including content, assessment, outcomes, pedagogy etc.)
  • Transformation of linguistic research practice
  • The role of “Southern Theory” and its relation to “Northern Theory”  within linguistics
  • Increasing the diversity of languages and voices within linguistics curricula
  • Challenges and opportunities for linguistics disciplinary practice.

Source:Mark de Vos