African Languages: An Introduction
Edited by Bernd Heine and Derek Nurse
|Dr. Derek Nurse
Of the estimated 6,000 languages on Earth, 2,000 of them are found on the continent of Africa. Yet until this year, there was no up-to-date introductory text in English on the massive subject.
African Languages: An Introduction was conceived three years ago at a conference. Drs. Derek Nurse (Linguistics, Memorial) and Bernd Heine (University of Cologne) discussed this lack of information one evening after sessions of the triennial World Congress of African Linguistics, held in Leipzig in 1997.
By the end of the night, they had roughed out what they would like to see in the book, who the contributors would be, and when they wanted the project to be finished. The next morning, they were able to approach most of their proposed contributors, as many of the world's experts in African languages were at the Congress.
As you would expect for a project like this, the process of completing the textbook wasn't quite that simple, but Drs. Nurse and Heine did meet their deadline of having the book ready for this year's congress in Togo.
There are four major language groupings of African languages; each of these is given a chapter, and each chapter is written by a different scholar.
Other chapters are devoted to the basics of modern linguistics study: phonology, morphology, syntax, and typology, with the final three covering comparative linguistics, language and history, and language and society.
It's designed as a textbook for "the world-wide undergraduate" and the editors expect it will be equally useful to English speakers in North America, Europe and Africa. Each chapter includes further references to its subject matter in order to facilitate further study.
Dr. Nurse gained his first exposure to African languages during the 10 years he spent in Tanzania and Kenya; he says he's the only Memorial professor who earned his PhD at the University of Dar es Salaam.
The book, he says, is selling well.
[Image of Book Cover]