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Language and Communication in Africa


Admission requirements

This course is open for MA students. Students of the MA African Study get priority over others.


Human interaction which is the basis of human sociality is dominated by the
use of language. Language is a tool for communication and experience. In using language in social interaction, speakers make various choices with respect to form (signals, varieties, genres, media, etc.) and the effects they might want to create (i.e. their communicative goals). Changes in Information and Communication Technology are an important factor shaping the context and means for such choices. Language is shaped by culture, emotion, politics, and technologies of communication. Language is both object of study, and it is the means through which we study, i.e. methodology and method. The study of language and communication is an interdisciplinary field in the humanities, cognitive and social sciences where (socio)linguistics, anthropology, communication studies, and history meet.
The study of language and communication is especially relevant for Africa because of the multiplicity of languages (Cameroon for instance has over 250 languages), the (colonial) impositions of languages and the endurance of oral traditions/orality. Communication technologies also have a specific role that is often described as the leap frog effect. ICTs landed in an often rather technologically marginal communication ecology and gave way to new forms of communication.These African traits engender choices at micro- and macro-societal levels creating social, cultural technological and language hierarchies and preferences.

Course objectives

General Learning Objectives:
The student will aquire the ability to:
1. Formulate judgements, based on a question or problem in the field of African Studies, even when the student has insufficient or limited information, by taking into account social and cultural, academic and ethnical repsonsibilities linked to the student’s own application of knowledge and judgement.
2. Clearly communicate, both in oral and written form, the outcomes based on the students own academic research, knowledge, motifs, and considerations to professionals as well as the broader public.
3. Further knowledge on ethnographic and linguistic fieldwork.
4. Continue further study at a professional level or academic level.

Learning skills pertaining to the course:

  1. The student will obtain proven knowledge of an interdisciplinary insight into the societies and cultures of Africa
  2. The students will show that they master ethnographic and discourse methods in gathering data for the research paper;
  3. The student will obtain the ability to apply knowledge, insights and different methods from the discipline linguistics and anthropology in new or unknown circumstances within the domain of African Studies, in order to solve problems, integrate knowledge and deal with complex matters
  4. The student can apply theoretical and methodological issues from an interdisciplinary perspective in a research paper
  5. Students can debate and discuss controversies in the field.


African Studies

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load 5 x 28 hours= 140 hours
lectures/seminars (14 uur (7x2);
literature 50 uur (= 350 pages);
paper: 76 hours

Assessment method

Students have to present and summarise the literature and they have to work on a paper of 4000 words that shows the application of interdisciplinarity and affinity with the topic. In case of an insufficient mark, students have the opportunity to submit a rewritten version of their essay.

Presentations on literature: 15% (learning outcomes assessed: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9)
Participation & summaries: 15% (learning outcomes assessed: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9)
Paper: 70% (learning outcomes assessed: 1-9)

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • communication with the students

  • uploading content for the course

Reading list

A selection of articles will be made available.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in [English]) and Dutch


Prof. M.E. de Bruijn Prof. Dr. M.P.G.M. Mous

Education Administration Office van Wijkplaats:

Coordinator of Studies: Else van Dijk