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The Limits of Legitimacy: Language Ideology and Shift in Contemporary Senegal

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Abstract

Current sociolinguistic patterns in Dakar, Senegal, suggest that the French language shares its position as legitimate language, in the sense suggested by Bourdieu, with a mixed Wolof/French code that enjoys no official recognition. This contradiction is explored through the examination of a historic public speech delivered by Senegal's president in 1988 and the linguistic ideologies that the various reactions to this speech represent. It will be seen that the growing use of "Urban Wolof" during the last decade in the informal economic sector, the mass media, and advertising both reflects and reinforces the emergence of a new ideology that attributes an "alternative legitimacy" to this linguistic hybrid.

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