Société de Linguistique de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (SLAO)

The West African Linguistic Society (WALS)


The West African Linguistic Society (WALS) is a non-profitable association of academics, research workers, field workers and teachers primarily drawn from the West African sub-region. Members have primarily come from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. Some of our very prominent members are those engaged in the scholarly study of the languages of West Africa, of their literatures and any other linguistic aspect of the area. Currently we have members resident other parts of Africa, in the Americas (Canada and USA), the European Union (France, Netherlands, Spain, UK etc) and Asia.

The activities of the Society are governed by a Council. The Council consists of a President, a Secretary-Treasurer and seven other members. Once elected into the Council, a member serves for two Congresses of two years each. The West African Languages Congress (WALC) meets every other year. It is in such Congresses that members present their scholarly research findings for scientific purposes. Such congresses seek solutions to the linguistic problems, language planning tasks, educational and social development challenges of the West African region.

The Biennial Congress has been held in:

Prior to the formation of WALS, a research body known as the Survey of West African Languages had, with the support of the Ford Foundation, been responsible for sponsoring and funding research in specific West African languages by appointing fellows to carry out research on specific lang uages, and by initiating two major publications: The Journal of West African Languages (JWAL) and the West African Language Monograph Series. Th e Survey was also responsible for initiating the West African Language Congresses, the first of which was held in Accra, Ghana in 1961. Under th e chairmanship of the distinguished Africanist linguist, Professor Joseph H. Greenberg, the Survey’s field activities were conducted under the s upervision of its field director, Professor Robert G. Armstrong. On the occasion of the Fifth Congress held at the University of Ghana, Legon, o n April 6 -10, 1965, the decision was taken to replace the Survey with a scholarly society which would be responsible to the membership. The ers twhile chairman of the Survey, Professor Greenberg, was elected the first President of the Society and Dr. Ayo Bamgbose, (now Professor) was ele cted the first Secretary-Treasurer. The Current President of WALS is Professor Firmin Ahoua of l’Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Côte d’Ivoir e. Professor Lendzemo Constantine Yuka of the University of Benin, Benin-City, Nigeria is the Secretary-Treasurer.

WALS took over the former activities of the Survey (other than the fellowship program), but it also proceeded to set up working groups, which ar e interest groups for specific areas of language research. The initial funding of WALS came from two major grants awarded by the Ford Foundation ($ 140,000 in 1966 and $75,000 in 1972). Largely through this generous support, WALS was able to fund most of its activities, including stimula ting interest in linguistic study and research, especially among African scholars and students. In addition to this type of funding, members of WALS pay an annual subscription, and the Society has received periodic support from governments, universities and the private sector at the time of its congresses. At practically every Congress, the government of the host country provides assistance by subsidizing hotel accommodation and providing transportation and other facilities. UNESCO has also provided grants in the past for simultaneous interpretation at some of the earli er congresses.

The major achievements of WALS in its 50 years of existence are: the establishment of Departments of Linguistics Across West African Universitie s, accelerated development of linguistics and the linguistic study in the West African sub-region, the stimulation of the training and productio n of African scholars in the field of linguistics, regional cooperation across the Anglophone and Francophone language divide, more intensive li nguistic research, and maintenance of the two key activities of the Society, i.e. the Congresses and publication of the Journal of West African Languages (JWAL).

Société de Linguistique de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (SLAO)

La SLAO est une association scientifique de linguistes au plan international. Elle est une institution de recherche sur les langues et cultures africaines et un lieu d’échanges au service du monde scientifique organisé en réseau international d’acteurs de développement. Les chercheurs de la SLAO sont engagés dans des réflexions et dans l’action pour un développement « équilibré, solidaire et durable » des langues et cultures du monde. Ils sont convaincus que toute articulation entre le local et le global est soumise à l’épreuve du développement des langues et des cultures. C’est pourquoi les linguistes travaillent à faire développer les langues et les cultures aux plans local et global.