Relativism, Universalism, and the Language of African Literature

Mazfui, Alamin
March 1992
Research in African Literatures;Spring1992, Vol. 23 Issue 1, p65
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
The article focuses on the opposition between linguistic relativism and linguistic universalism, regarding the utilization of language in African literature. Relativists regard the use of African languages as indispensable in the quest for an authentic African literature. For them, language is the reservoir of people's culture, or the medium that structures perceptions in culturally bound ways. Pitted against the relativist position, is linguistic universalism, that regards language as a malleable tool in the service of the transcultural creative mind. Proponents of this view reject the idea that literature is African, only if it has been composed in an African language.


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