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EXCO-221: Introductory Wolof

Instructors: Francesca OTT, Elia TZOUKERMANN, Brandon COUNTY

Wolof, a West-Atlantic/Senegambian language of the Niger-Congo family, is an important language of daily life, faith, philosophy, and artistic expression in its core area of Senegal and The Gambia, as well as in Mauritania, Guinea, and Mali. It is spoken in emigrant communities in West Africa, western Europe, and North America. Over six centuries, Wolof and related tongues have shaped Afro-Atlantic creole languages of the western Sahara Desert (Ḥassānīyyah), the Upper Guinea littoral (Berdiánu, Aku), Hispaniola (Ayisyen), southeastern North America’s Sea Islands (Gullah), and the Mississippi River basin (Lalwizyàn). In the 19th and 20th centuries, Wolof informed regional lexicons of colonial rule and decolonial resistance. Today, it is a touchstone for Diasporic, Pan-Africanist, and Afrofuturist philosophies. With its deep past and imaginative breadth, Wolo s importance in the arts, humanities, and social sciences merit serious study.

This course focuses on the basic grammar, vocabulary, and culture of Wolof speakers as an introduction to West African linguistics and lifeways. Attentive to Senegalese examples in our conversational activities and written assignments, the course emphasizes grammar analysis, oral expression, and aural comprehension across different media. At semester’s end, students will have a basic (if limited) vocabulary, a command of fundamental grammar, and insight into the cultural contexts in which Wolof is used.


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