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African multilingualism viewed from another angle: challenging the Casamance exception

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Publication details

Journal International Journal of Multilingualism
DateAccepted/In press - Dec 2020
DatePublished (current) - 1 Aug 2021
Issue number4
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)939-958
Original languageEnglish


The former region of southern Senegal, the Casamance, has been portrayed throughout the literature on African multilingualism in a singular light, for example, as an area where monolingualism does not exist. The purpose of this paper is to stress the previously unacknowledged importance of monolingual settings and practices by discussing data that have yet to be presented in the literature. We investigate rural multilingualism and monolingualism across the Casamance by carrying out the following four studies: a) we conduct a survey on 62 villages with a questionnaire and our newly created "blindfold test", classifying them into two main types, b) we study the role of exogamy in multilingual language acquisition in one of the villages with 34 women, c) we analyse child language production data and child directed speech to examine the existence of monolingual language acquisition, d) we examine the sociolinguistic profiles of 101 speakers of one language community to investigate inter-generational multilingualism. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics in the form of frequency counts. Additionally, we couch our results on multilingualism in the theory of canonical typology. We propose a distinction between multilingual settings, e.g. communities where speakers are mostly likely to accommodate, and who live among villages largely located on national roads and around cities, and monolingual settings, which constitute most of the villages of the Casamance and where language acquisition is monolingual and where migration, rather than exogamy, accounts for the development of individual multilingualism. This paper contributes unprecedented research methodology for the study of complex multilingual situations such as those found in African multilingual contexts. Our study adds to the growing understanding of small-scale multilingualism and the emergence of multilingualism in monolingual contexts.

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2021

    Research areas

  • Multilingualism, African multilingualism, Sociolinguistics, Monolingualism, exogamy, Child Language acquisition

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