Some challenges of language documentation in African multilingual settings

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This paper questions mainstream theoretical and methodological frameworkswhich underlie the work of language documentation (LD) in Africa. It furtherseeks to ask the question what is/should be the ultimate aim of LD, especiallyin inherently multilingual settings where language use is conceived more interms of repertoires than clear cut language codes, and where each repertoiremay trigger a different sense of belonging? Drawing from personal documentationexperience in two multilingual communities of Cameroon, this researchshows that, if not informed sociolinguistically, LD efforts may fail to addressthat which truly is at stake in the life of a multilingual speech community. Thepaper ends by suggesting that, in addition to being a reactive undertaking, LDshould also encompass a pro-active component, one which does not only aimat rescuing an allegedly dying language, but also seeks to understand the powerdynamics of language repertoires in critical multilingual settings of Arica.


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