Rhodes University hosts African Linguistics School

African Linguistics School participants
African Linguistics School participants

For the first time in the history of South Africa, the African Linguistics School (ALS) was hosted by Rhodes University. The School saw over 50 postgraduate students and post-doctoral fellows from universities across Africa, Europe and North America descending on Makhanda. The two week programme, which covered core areas of linguistics such as syntax, semantics, phonology, language contact and fieldwork was taught by some of the most prominent scholars in linguistics. The 18 internationally recognised faculty members from Africa, Europe and North America taught the programme on a pro-bono basis. 

This was only the fifth time that the School was held. Previously hosted by Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the School was attended by students from Togo, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, South Africa, Malawi, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Europe and North America at Rhodes University’s Barratt lecture complex from 01 to 12 July 2019.

According to Rhodes University’s department of English Language and Linguistics Head of Department, Professor Ron Simango who also taught at the School, the programme aimed to expose African students to the best linguists from all over the world. “This presented a once in a lifetime opportunity for African students and those from Europe and North America to meet leading scholars in the field of linguistics. The programme equips students with in-depth knowledge in linguistics and enables them to spread the knowledge in their respective countries,” he said.

A Masters Linguistics student from Aarhus University in Denmark, Sin Yee Melody Li said the two weeks were very intensive and she learnt a lot. “The Professors in this institute have done a wonderful job in terms of teaching us how to develop an idea and presenting it to the people. It has also assisted me to acquire more insight in terms of carrying out research and I am now ready to enrol for my PhD,” she said.

A Lecturer from University of Uyo in Nigeria, Dr Ememobong Udoh, said the programme was meaningful and beneficial as they themselves learnt about current trends in linguistics. “I was impressed with my fellow academics’ approach because it showed collaboration of different linguistics from different universities. I am sure that everybody who participated in this programme will not forget the wonderful experience it presented,” he said.

The programme was sponsored by New York University and Rutgers University, both in United States of America, and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Simango said the programme raised Rhodes University’s profile in the international arena and some international students showed interest of studying at the Makhanda-based University.