Wolof across borders
: a reconceptualization of urban Wolof from a translanguaging perspective with a case study of Senegalese transmigrants

  • Abdoul Aziz Dieng

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The aim of this research is to offer a reconceptualization of urban Wolof, the language of millions of Senegalese in Senegal and abroad, in the light of the translanguaging theory. Whereas most of the Urban Wolof literature is principally limited to how this languaging form is spoken in Senegal, the present study considers the effects of mobility on urban Wolof by establishing a correlation between transmigration and translanguaging. Going beyond the confines of Senegal, this study investigates how the Senegalese diasporans engage in their daily translanguaging practices, as they move across borders, in their capacity as mobile multilingual transmigrants.
The present investigation offers a more speaker-centred stance, a sort of bottom-up approach to language, the objective being to move away from the a priori assumptions that the urban Wolophone shuttles between languages, and away from the rigidity of code-based theoretical approaches through which scholars have thus far examined urban Wolof. To this end, the study employs linguistic ethnographic methodologies (with methods including observation and interviews), with a more decolonised approach in terms of participatory data collection and analysis, all of which were facilitated by the affordances of the ethnographic gaze of an in-group member.
Results indicate that what adepts of the code-based theories regard as alternations between languages are in fact the urban Wolophone monitoring her linguistic repertoire to produce from it a form of languaging she views as opportune, in response to the exigencies of her social milieu. It is in that regard that the term translanguaging pattern was adopted in this study to denote the many types of monitoring that the speakers deploy. Further results indicate that the monitoring is generally informed, at a macro level, by special events, but also, at a micro level, by the nature of the audience and specific addressees. The study also shows that the general language attitudes of the Senegalese transmigrants are different, in some respects, to the ones reported in Senegal. It has been found that they display positive attitudes towards some forms of languaging such as monolingual Wolof. This runs counter to the general attitude observed in Senegal.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorGlenn Hadikin (Supervisor), Tony Chafer (Supervisor) & Mario Saraceni (Supervisor)

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