African Voices: An Introduction to the Languages and Linguistics of Africa- Vic Webb


Language is strongly tied into identity, especially in Africa. Despite having 53 countries, Africa is home to at least 2,000 languages, so contrary to popular belief, there is no language called “African!”

This is an introductory textbook for African linguistics and, judging from the group discussion questions in the back of each chapter, it is probably more suited for African linguistics students living in Africa. Even so, I got a lot out of it and it’s definitely a must for those interested in African languages.

I skipped 2 chapters on phonetic characteristics of language. I was more interested in the functions of language in society and how languages have evolved. I learned about the linguistic groups in Africa, I was surprised that there were only 4:

Niger-Congo (Bantu)<— my linguistic group

I learned that language is a complex and highly political issue in Africa, made worse by colonialists drawing up arbitrary lines between countries, thus dividing people from different tribes trans-borderly

The book also goes into the ethnic revival of languages, some pidgins that were formed when people of different tribes came to work together, the popularity and the prestige of European languages in the area.

Despite already knowing that there are a lot of languages spoken in Africa, this book opened up my eyes even more so to the issues.


4 thoughts on “African Voices: An Introduction to the Languages and Linguistics of Africa- Vic Webb

  1. I studied African languages myself this year, well actually isiZulu but a lot of the course dealt with the cultures and traditions of African culture as well. Fascinating stuff. 🙂

      1. Yes it was definitely Zulu(although there might have been some Xhosa thrown in there, since Tata was Xhosa). It’s very expressive but unfortunately when they speak so fast it was hard for me to follow with my limited knowledge, LOL.

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