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Language, Culture and Society in Africa


Admission requirements

No requirements.


This course explores the multifaceted relation between language, culture and society in African contexts. Language is an essential means of communication and social interaction; as such it plays a crucial role in all aspects of social, cultural, political and economic life. The aim of this course is to expose students to communicative practices and indigenous theories of communication, to better understand the sociocultural dimensions of language and the social consequences of language use in Africa.

During the course we will explore the role played by language and culture in social interaction, for example by studying forms of address and conventionalised speech as manifested in greeting and parting strategies; various communication channels, including non-verbal communication, and traditional and modern modes of mass communication in African contexts.

The discussion will be framed within intercultural pragmatics and ethnography of communication approaches to the study of communication. Ethnography of communication is the study of culturally constituted patterns of communication and communicative interaction, and students will be introduced to the methods used, theories tested and insights developed by practitioners of this approach in a wide variety of settings from around Africa. Cross-cultural communication and core cultural values will also be examined in order for the students to understand the meaning of various ways of communicating across different cultures.

Course objectives

  • The students will get insights on the relevance of language for the understanding of sociocultural dynamics in Africa. 

  • The students will become acquainted with the methods of research and the theories of ethnography of communication and cross-cultural communication and their applications in different contexts in Africa.

  • The students will acquire the tools to analyse and understand communicative interactions in various African linguacultures, and they will be able to apply this knowledge in their interactions in Africa and with Africans in the diaspora.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Workgroup

Assessment method

  • Written examination with essay question

  • Active participation / cooperation in class and on the discussion board

  • Oral presentation


  • Participation in class and close engagement with the literature through peer to peer discussion on Discussion Board (three of these will be required).

  • A presentation of a research article on one of the topics handled in class.

  • A written exam based on the topics discussed in class.


  • Participation on the discussion board: 10%

  • Class presentation: 15%

  • Final exam: 75%


Resit for final exam.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Required readings for each week will be announced via Brightspace


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Reuvenplaats


All other information.