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Language Repertoires and State Construction in Africa

$57.00 (C)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

  • Date Published: February 2007
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521033275

$ 57.00 (C)

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About the Authors
  • The author of two previous books on African political culture, David Laitin turns in this book to the study of language planning in Africa and the role of language politics in the process of state formation. Written in an engaging style, the book takes the reader into the complex web of language use in Africa today, where the average citizen must employ a multitude of different languages for use in the home, at school, in the marketplace, and on the job. African state governments must confront a number of difficult questions concerning language, such as which language of many should be the official national language--if any--and which language should be used in schools. Decisions on these questions are shown to be an important part of the process of state formation, and by making comparison to European cases, Laitin asks whether the complexity of language use in Africa today is symptomatic of early state construction, and if so, whether states must move inevitably toward a common language as they develop. He uses the logic of game theory to argue that a common language is not the inevitable solution, and proposes that in Africa the optimal solution to the language problem will be what he calls a 3 + 1 outcome, which will allow for multiple language use.

    Reviews & endorsements

    "David Laitin has combined an erudite discussion of contemporary language conditions in Africa (and India) and an elegant analysis of the oppositions and dilemmas of language-reform policy, all in one slim and highly readable volume." Abram de Swann, Contemporary Sociology

    "[S]ociolinguists, language planners, and those generally interested in language in Africa will find Laitin's approach an important tool for the analysis of those linguistically complex states in which multilingualism is the norm....Well researched and lucidly written, this volume abounds with detail on individual language situations, and is therefore valuable as a general overview of the continent....Potential readers from disciplines other than Laitin's own should not be daunted by the fact that Language Repertoires and State Construction in Africa is part of a political science series. The study is well conceived and contributes much to a relatively understudied field." Fiona McLaughlin, Anthropological Linguistics

    "...represents a new and unique analysis of multilingualism in Africa. From his perspective as a political scientist, Laitin brings an enlightening interdisciplinary approach to this subject matter, which has traditionally been the domain of the linguist and the sociologist, and the so-called 'language planners'....I found Laitin's book to be remarkably enlightening. I feel that part of its significance lies in his demonstrated ability to provide a theoretical framework through which historians, political scientists, developmental economists, and other (non-linguistic) social scientists can become more aware of the great importance of multilingualism and 'language outcomes' as factors to be reckoned with in post-colonial Africa. He succeeds admirably at making us cognizant of a wide range of considerations demonstrating the importance that traditionally underacknowledged 'language repertoires' play in African societies." John Hutchinson, International Journal of African Historical Studies

    " elegant and compelling analysis of language politics and policy choice in Africa, by a long distance the most comprehensive undertaken in any field...In a mere 164 pages of text, Laitin sketches an amazingly comprehensive portrait. In its scope and succinctness, this comparative study is a model...a masterful analysis of one of the most important aspects of identity politics in Africa and elsewhere. It is must reading for all students of African politics, as well as those concerned with the comparative politics of cultural pluralism." Crawford Young, American Political Science Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2007
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521033275
    • length: 220 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 151 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.338kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Language Repertoires and the State:
    1. Language repertoires as political outcomes
    2. Three theories explaining language outcomes
    3. Do language outcomes matter?
    Part II. Sociological and Political Forces Described:
    4. The micro dynamics of language use in contemporary Africa
    5. Macro forces shaping the contemporary language situation in Africa
    Part III. Strategic Theory Applied:
    6. Strategic theory and Africa's language future
    7. Case studies from independent Africa
    Part IV. Conclusion and Policy Recommendations:
    8. Shaping the 3 + 1 language state

  • Author

    David D. Laitin, Stanford University, California

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