African Studies


Africa-related linguistic research at the University of Bayreuth covers the following language areas:

  • African linguistics
  • English linguistics
  • Arabic linguistics
  • Romance and general linguistics

In linguistic research, these fields concertedly pursue corpus-based approaches and the integration of language communities’ social and cultural contexts. That is, they focus on the compilation and analysis of comprehensive text corpora as well as on language in use and attitudes to language in various social settings. The disciplines tangibly cooperate in teaching and research, e.g. within the faculty’s lecture series “Linguistic Colloquium”.  Nevertheless, the fields retain a distinct identity through their particular research objects and respective research landscapes briefly described below.

African Linguistics

African Linguistics deals with languages that have scarcely – or even never – been properly described. In these cases, it is the objective to generate grammar scripts and dictionaries vital among others for the development of orthographies and teaching material. Field research aims not only to record and analyse linguistic data in the – often multi-lingual – social setting, but also to compile corpora of fictional and non-fictional texts that cover a broad and diverse range. Furthermore, the historical and comparative approach to language –  including, if possible, the analysis of historical texts –  is an important research tradition in African Linguistics in Germany.

English Linguistics

English Linguistics is interested in the varieties of English spoken in Africa, as well as English-based contact languages in Africa and in the African diaspora. The main research areas are:

  • Status, function and use of English in multilingual contexts
  • Description and analysis of African varieties of English
  • The use of English in situative contexts and in verbal interaction
  • Development of English-based contact languages (pidgins and creoles) in Africa and in the African diaspora
  • Representation of diaspora identities in the context of various social and verbal practices (e.g. forms of address, realization of specific speech acts)

Arabic Linguistics

Arabic Linguistics at Bayreuth is interested in the African varieties of Arabic, focusing especially on the following areas:

  • The influence of neighbouring "African" languages (language contact)
  • The effects of multilingualism, or language variation (sociolinguistics)
  • The relations between different dialects (dialectology)
  • The development of Arabic-based pidgins and creoles
  • The history of Arabic from an African perspective and its relationship to the history of Arabic in general (historical linguistics)

Romance and General Linguistics

Romance Linguistics is concerned with the varieties of French in sub-Saharan Africa which are studied in different contexts, situations and areas, for instance in the media (especially radio, TV, internet) and in contexts involving a transfer of knowledge (including medical communication and sensitization campaigns). Based on theoretical concepts coming from sociolinguistics, pragmatics and interaction analysis research is mainly focused on the use of French in verbal interactions. Given the multilingualism of most francophone African states issues of cultural and language contact, frequently examined from a comparative perspective, are also playing an important role.