The Politics of National Languages in Postcolonial Senegal

by Ibrahima Diallo


Senegal claimed political independence from France in 1960, and Léopold Sédhar Senghor became Senegal’s first president. Even though Senegal was no longer a French colony, Senghor was determined to maintain the dominance of French culture and language in his country. However, pressure to give national languages more power and space, which had already started during French occupation, continued intensely after independence. Senghor’s political adversaries as well as teacher and student unions, workers, and various activist groups roundly criticized Senghor’s government for the language and education programs he chose for the Senegalese people. The issue of national languages thus became a major political issue in Senegal with a far-reaching and longstanding impact.

This book is a comprehensive study on the current language policies and practices in Senegal. It illuminates the tension that has arisen from the enduring colonial legacies and their influences in postcolonial language policies in Senegal. It also highlights the need for vigorous policy change to recognize the Senegalese languages, especially in education, and how the preservation of these languages is critical to identity and culture issues. The book shows that it is important for the Senegalese people to retain their original local languages and how French and English are not simply the only languages needed for Senegal’s success in the globalized economy. In addition to a detailed history with supporting facts and figures, this study also links socioeconomic, cultural, and political events in its analysis of the unstoppable rise of Wolof, which is posing a significant threat to the already-fragile local linguistic ecology.

This book will be of interest to scholars in applied and social linguistics, African studies, and policy studies.


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