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Dr. Saudah Namyalo: Language situation and endangerment in Uganda: Facts and perspectives

The paper further discusses the status and growth of the individual languages in Uganda.
When May 13, 2015
from 05:15 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Faculty of English, Room GR-06/07
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Uganda, like many other African countries, has a complex and diverse
language situation. It has a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and
multi-lingual society (see Namyalo & Nakayiza 2014) and, according to
the Ethnologue (Lewis 2014) is home to 41 languages, which belong to
four different language families, namely Bantu, Nilotic, Central Sudanic
and Kuliak languages.

However, the only nation-wide language survey in Uganda was conducted in 1967-1971 (Ladefoged et al 1972). In this survey, an attempt was made to
analyse the languages spoken in Uganda, classify them into linguistic
groups, identify some phonological features of a few of them and draw a
preliminary language map for Uganda (see Mukama 1998:49). Since then, no nation-wide language survey of language has ever been conducted, and even newer publications continue to draw from Ladefoged’s survey. Due to the lack of a recent large-scale language survey and the lack of a language question in the population censuses of Uganda, the actual number of languages spoken in Uganda has been reported with variations (see Katamba (2006), Kwagala et al. (2007), Batibo (2005) among others). In view of this, the paper analyses the historical background and affiliations of Uganda’s languages by providing specific names of these languages and dialects, their geographical locations and the current demographic sizes as per the 2014 population census. In addition to this, their classification in terms of their linguistic families is
provided.

The paper further discusses the status and growth of the individual
languages in Uganda. It examines which languages for example possess
writing systems, those that are taught in schools, the quantity and
quality of literature available in each language, and the degree and
level of terminological empowerment in comparison to the status and role
of English in Uganda.


In addition, the paper highlights that the roles of indigenous languages
are being revitalised: The status of indigenous languages has grown
beyond the limited grounds of ‘vernaculars’ spoken by small divided
tribes into dignified area languages with important roles in education,
socialisation, administration, judiciary, mass media, politicisation and
national unification (see Mukama: 1998:49). Such languages include
Luganda, Runyakitara, and Acholi (among others). These languages are
used as medium of instruction under the mother-tongue-based curriculum,
they are taught as subjects in schools. In addition, they are widely
used in administration and judiciary as well as mass media.

The paper ends with a discussion of language expansion, dominance, shift
and death in Uganda. It is observed that apart from English, which has
been the country’s sole official language, and Kiswahili, which has been
recently proposed as the second official language, area languages, like
Luganda, Ateso, Runyankore-Rukiga, Runyoro-Rutooro, Dhopadhola, Lugbra,
Acholi and Ng’akaramojongo, have continued to expand and dominate
smaller languages. This situation directly and indirectly facilitates
language shift, death and endangerment.


This talk is part of the Cambridge Endangered Languages and Cultures
Group series.

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