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University of Cologne · Institute for African Studies

WOCAL 6 · Cologne

“African Linguistics for Understanding and Progress”

(August 17-21, 2009)

Umriss Kontinent Afrika

WOCAL - World Congress of African Linguistics, a truly international and pan-theoretical African linguistics conference

Matthias Brenzinger, Secretary General of WOCAL

According to Robert Herbert the (co-) president of the congress committee of first WOCAL, which was held at the University of Swaziland in 1994, there were two main stimuli which brought WOCAL into being:

The first relates to the struggle for African independence: African linguistics started off as an academic discipline among scholars in the colonizing European countries and later also in the United States, Russia, Poland, Japan, etc. Conferences of African linguistics took place in the US and in the European centres of African language studies, all of them with very little African participation. In the 1980’s African linguists increasingly criticized this “academic colonialism” and claimed a return of African linguistics to Africa. Furthermore, hardly any exchange existed between African scholars from the different parts of Africa.

The second stimulus came in the early 1990s, when South Africa was freed from the Apartheid regime. It was eager to be reintegrated into the global academic world after being isolated for decades.

For the future of WOCAL it is of eminent importance to keep both aspects in mind, in order to keep the spirit of WOCAL as the only truly international and pan-theoretical Congress of African Linguistics with a strong emphasis on the participation of African scholars.


WOCAL Congresses, 1994 - 2009

1st World Congress of African Linguistics

Kwaluseni, Swaziland
July 18th – 22nd 1994
Location: University of Swaziland
Theme: African Linguistics at the Crossroads
Congress Chairs: Robert K. Herbert & E.C. Lwandle Kunene
Keynotes: Ben O. Elugbe, Bernd Heine, Thomas Hinnebusch, G. Hérault, Mubanga Kashoki, Sam Mchombo, David Odden, Irina Toporova, Anthony Traill
Presentations*: 150 (200)
Countries**: 34 (21)
Proceedings: Robert K. Herbert (ed.) (36 papers, 645 pages): Contributors themselves financed publication

2nd World Congress of African Linguistics

Leipzig, Germany
July 27th - August 3rd 1997
Location: University of Leipzig
Theme: African Languages in the 3rd Millennium
Patron: Prof. Dr. Kurt Biedenkopf, Prime Minister of the Free State of Saxony
Congress Chair: H. Ekkehard Wolff
Keynotes: Ayo Bambose, Mohamed H. Abdulaziz, Kay Williamson, Paul Newman
Presentations: 180 (250)
Countries: 39
Proceedings: H. Ekkehard Wolff and Orin Gensler (eds.) (46 papers, 791 pages): University of Leipzig

Symposium: Endangered Languages organized by M. Brenzinger (DFG)
Symposium proceedings: M. Brenzinger (ed.) (11 papers, 284 pages) (DFG)
Opening: Old City Hall  

3rd World Congress of African Linguistics

Lomé, Togo
August 21st - 26th 2000
Location: Université du Bénin-Lomé, Togo
Theme: no Congress theme
Patron: Monsieur le Ministre de l’Education Nationale et de la Recherche
Congress Chair: Kézié Kyenzi Lébikaza
Keynotes: Bernd Heine, Hounkpati Capo, Karsten Legère, Ayo Bambose, Herman M. Batibo
Presentations: 90 (150)
Countries: 29 (17)
Proceedings: Kézié Kyenzi Lébikaza (ed.) (31 papers, 443 pages): Humboldt-Foundation

Symposium: Major African Languages organized by M. Brenzinger (Thyssen-Foundation)

4th World Congress of African Linguistics

New Brunswick , USA
June 17th - 22nd 2003
Location: Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
Theme: The Description of African Languages in a Rapidly Changing Field
Congress Chair: Akinbiyi Akinlabi
Keynotes: Larry Hyman, Ben O. Elugbe, H. Ekkehard Wolff
Presentations: 160 (200)
Countries: 22
Proceedings: Akinbiyi Akinlabi and Oluseye Adesola (eds.) (42 papers, 575 pages): Rutgers University
Special: co-organized together with the 34th Annual Conference on African Linguistics (ACAL 34)  

5th World Congress of African Linguistics

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
August 7th - 11th 2006
Location: African Union Conference Center & Addis Ababa University
Theme: The Fate of African Languages in the World of Globalization
Congress Chair: BAYE Yimam
Keynotes: Al Mtenge, Bernd Heine, Felix Ameka, Ian Maddieson, Roslaie Finlayson.
Presentations: 90 (130)
Countries: 23 (14)  

Special 6th World Congress of African Linguistics

University of São Paulo, Brasil
August 11th - 15th 2008
Location: Universidade de São Paulo
Theme: Exploring the African Language Connection in Americas
Congress Chair: Margarida Maria Taddoni Petter
Contact: gela@usp.br

6th World Congress of African Linguistics

Cologne, Germany
August 17th - 21st 2009
Location: University of Cologne
Theme: African Linguistics for Understanding and Progress
Congress Chair: Matthias Brenzinger

Special African Sign Languages workshop (Victoria Nyst, Shane Gilchrist, Rezenet Moges, Dany Adone)
Nubian Workshop (Anne Storch, Al-Amin Abu-Manga)
Tima research unit (Gerrit J. Dimmendaal)

Contact: wocal6@uni-koeln.de


* Presentations held, (…) announced in the programme
** Countries represented at the Congress, (…) African countries.

Comments and corrections on the history of WOCAL fact sheet:



Webteam Afrikanistik
Last change: 11.03.2009