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The Economics of Language Policy$
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Michele Gazzola and Bengt-Arne Wickström

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034708

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034708.001.0001

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Languages and National Identity in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Multilevel Approach

Languages and National Identity in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Multilevel Approach

Chapter:
7 Languages and National Identity in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Multilevel Approach
Source:
The Economics of Language Policy
Author(s):

Katalin Buzási

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262034708.003.0008

This chapter contributes to the recent strand of the empirical political and economic literature that attempts to reveal the determinants of national identification in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although previous survey-based studies provide evidence that the socio-economic characteristics of individuals, the properties of ethnic groups they belong to, and certain country-level variables influence the probability of having positive attitudes toward the ethnic group or the nation, the role of languages has not been studied in this context yet. Inspired by findings of psycholinguistics and related disciplines, we utilize the fourth round of the Afrobarometer Project (surveyed in 2008 and 2009) to conduct analysis on the possible positive relationship between language knowledge and identification in national versus ethnic terms. We introduce two language-related explanatory variables. First, the Index of Communication Potential (ICP) reflects the probability that an individual can communicate with another randomly selected person within the society relying on commonly spoken languages. Second, we take into account the number of spoken languages in one’s repertoire. The multilevel models show that although speaking more than two languages increases the chance of identifying in national compared to ethnic terms, the ICP is not significant in this sense on the whole sample. But, when we consider the nationality of the former colonizers, the ICP exhibits positive relationship with national identification on the sub-sample of the former French colonies.

Keywords:   Sub-Saharan Africa, Language, Communication potential, National identity, Multilevel modeling

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