The African Linguistics School (ALS) is a two-week institute which brings the latest work in core areas of linguistics to students from African universities. This year’s ALS 6, which was co-sponsored by Yale University, met in Porto Novo, Republic of Benin from July 18th to July 30th. This was the first in-person session since the Covid-19 outbreak, which required the program to halt its operations for two years. Participants included 51 students including 40 junior professors from universities across Africa, seven from universities across the U.S., and four from European institutions.
Yale President Peter Salovey announced the university’s intention to co-sponsor ALS 6 and ALS 7 during his trip to Nigeria in January 2020. At a press breifing in Lagos, he said “As African nations expand their global roles, Yale is committed to advancing the study of African languages, to integrating such study into contemporary scholarship, and to expanding the community of African scholars in this area of inquiry. Yale’s support of teaching and research efforts like those achieved by the African Linguistics School will be central in achieving these goals.”
Veeneta Dayal, the Dorothy R. Diebold Professor of Linguistics, initiated Yale’s collaboration with ALS alongside her colleagues Professor Robert Frank and Professor Raffaella Zanuttini. According to Dayal, Yale’s co-sponsorship of ALS 6 had far-reaching effects on the resources and training the institute was able to provide this year’s students. Specifically, support from Yale enabled the institute to provide free tuition and board for all students who were accepted into the program as well as support some students in their travels to the Benin location. Students who attend ALS 6 were also given a number of professional and career-focused resources meant to assist them in applications and resume-building for international academic institutions. “Yale had the vision and the mission and here was one small example of how that mission could be made concrete,” said Dayal about Yale’s commitment to co-sponsor ALS 6 and ALS 7.
Among the goals of the ALS program is to offer African students the opportunity to learn more about linguistics, a field that is present in Africa but often lacks the necessary reach for training young academics interested in the study. Dayal particularly notes that the study of semantics is particularly underrepresented in Africa as there are no professors who teach formal semantics based in Africa. For this reason, ALS strives to make these topics more accessible to interested African students by bringing professors with relevant backgrounds in linguistics to the continent.
An exciting development during ALS 6 was that six of the instructors were ALS alumni, signaling a positive outcome of the program.
To learn more, visit the African Linguistics School website.