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Dr. Don Edward Walicek


Linguistic and Cultural Contact on West Africa‘s Gold Coast in the 17th Century

Dr. Don Edward Walicek


This presentation, which describes a work in progress, examines linguistic and cultural contact on the Gold Coast of West Africa in the seventeenth century. It holds that dynamics in this period are important for understanding British colonialism in Western Africa and the history of language contact and language change there as well as in English colonies throughout the circum-Caribbean. The research presented identifies metalinguistic and linguistic data found in archival materials created in the operation of a system of castles, forts, and settlements established by the Royal African Company of England (RAC). It shows that the careful analysis of these records can contribute to a process by which the archive can be restored on an ongoing basis and simultaneously used to cultivate more robust understanding of numerous phenomena, including: (i) general patterns which establish which groups were engaged in linguistic contact in the coastal setting, (ii) the function of language difference, multilingualism, and languages of interethnic communication in the extraction of Africans and the organization of the Atlantic Slave Trade, (iii) social dynamics characterizing interaction between the English and different groups of Africans, (iv) the unofficial and official roles of linguists, linguisters, and interpreters in the Atlantic Slave Trade, (v) the experiences of enslaved Africans in English castles and forts, and (vi) the emergence of some of the Creole languages spoken in the contemporary Caribbean.

Date: 7th of December 2023, 12:00-14:00

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