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The choice of language and the use to which language is being put is central to a people’s definition of themselves in relation to  their natural and social environment, indeed in relation to the entire universe.” (Thiong’o, 1986, p. 4).

To consider language, culture and communication as political phenomenon. Here we look at the politics of language in African literature in relation to mid- modern, colonialism and examine the role of language in relation to culture and communication more generally.  Think about the conference Ngg wa Thiong’o attended in 1962. Recall the context of the question, What is African Literature? (1986, p. 6) Recall also Thiong’o’s story of the experience of British/English colonial imposition during his childhood as a young boy in Kenya (it may also be helpful to recall readings from Fanon in relation to a similar phenomenon with French colonialism in Algeria). (1986, p. 10)  Now, remember, Thiongo writes, Language, any language, has a dual character: it is both a means of communication and a carrier of culture. (1986, p. 13)  This is key.

Write:  Provide a response to the debate around ‘What is African Literature?’ as articulated by Thiong’o. Specifically, describe what he writes is the dual function of language–that is, the notion of language as a tool for communication as well as a function of culture. What does this mean for Thiongo?  Then, discuss how Thiongo answers the question he begins with in section Five (V) of the chapter, “So what was the colonialist imposition of a foreign language doing to us children? (1986, p. 16)  In your discussion, be sure to address what he theorizes are problematic effects of this colonial imposition of language on a people/its young folk.


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