May 24, 2010

41st Annual Conference on African Linguistics

The University of Toronto and York University recently co-hosted the 41st Annual Conference on African Linguistics (ACAL2010), on May 6-8th. Plenary speakers were Prof. Sammy Beban Chumbow (Université Yaoundé I, Cameroon), Prof. Salikoko Mufwene (University of Chicago), and Prof. Sharon Rose (University of California at San Diego). These talks touched upon a number of key issues related to African language description, analysis, history, status, and preservation, tying well with the theme of the conference “African Languages in Contact”.

There were over 80 talks presented from researchers at institutions throughout the world including North America, Europe, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Sudan, and others. Five parallel sessions were needed at times at the conference to accommodate the great number of participants!

Talks were presented covering numerous aspects of formal linguistic theory and language studies, including sessions centered around Phonology, Tonology, Phonetics, Syntax, Semantics, Acquisition, Language Variation, Language Policy, Language Contact, and others.

University of Toronto linguistics graduate students Isaac Gould, Safieh Moghaddam, and Nicholas Rolle each presented a paper at the conference in distinct syntax sessions. Isaac presented on the absentive marker and Safieh presented on focus constructions, both in Lamnso’ [Bantoid: Cameroon], while Nicholas presented on morphosyntactic aspects of personal pronouns in Esan [Edoid: Nigeria]. All three of these talks come from continued work on these languages stemming from past Field Methods courses taught by University Professor Keren Rice.

The conference ended with a bang, held at the hall of the Eritrean Canadian Association of Toronto. There, the participants feasted on a great variety of foods from East and West Africa, sipped on Ethiopian beer, all to the tunes of a great Zimbabwean band Asaansi (sp?), whose name in Shona means “Waves”. The night was capped by lots of dancing, both by the band and by the participants. You can see more of the festivities here:

Our linguistics students Derek Denis, Nicholas Rolle, and Isaac Gould

Co-organizer Peter Avery

Wonderful African food

The great Zimbabwean band

Plenary Speaker Sharon Rose

Plenary Speaker Sammy Beban Chumbow

Co-organizer Bruce Connell

Women in traditional Nigerian garments

Profs. James Essegbey and Salikoko Mufwene

The conference was organized by Peter Avery, Parth Bhatt, Bruce Connell, Juvenal Ndayiragije, Emmanuel Nikiema, Keren Rice, and Nicholas Rolle, with the help of volunteers too numerous to mention here in full.

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