Today was a really fun day in my new favorite class, African Language Politics and Jurisprudence. I know that that name sounds like a mouthful, but it is
a seven hundred level seminar taught by my advisor, who is the man that I really wanted to study with ever since I heard about the linguistics program at Indiana University, so I guess we can let it slide just this once. The class, in actuality, isn't really a linguistics course per se. It's actually a seminar offered jointly through the graduate school, the department of linguistics, and the program in african studies, that just happens to be taught by a linguist this particular semester...and thank god for that! I happen to be taking the class for many different reasons this semester. Number one on the list, it's a great class that is taught by Dr Obeng...but I think we've already covered that. Number two, the class is an advanced seminar in sociolinguistics that covers exactly the material that I am interested in, so that's a plus right there. Finally, as a requirement for FLAS fellows in African studies, we all need to take a class sponsored by the African Studies program, and so luckily I was able to satisfy that with something to do with linguistics, rather than taking some course on African literature or history. As you can see, everything seemed to work out in my favor for the course.
One downfall of the course is the fact that it isn't a linguistics course, and so therefore it is open to people in African studies who are from a variety of different disciplines, including political science, education, comparative literature, linguistics, and anthropology. With so many different schools of thought and agendas in the class, things get a little fuzzy and "a lot" scary to the linguists. We have to handle questions like "what are pidgins and creoles" and "what is the difference between national and official languages" in an advanced level sociolinguistics course. We also have individuals in the class who don't really understand basic concepts about language planning and language revitalization. Therefore, I spend half the time in class totally engaged in whatever Dr O is saying, and the rest of the time cringing at what some of my classmates are trying to add to the discussion. I suppose that they'll all be getting a rude awakening later when they learn that what they are thinking isn't exactly what has been supported by history or by the literature in the field.