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Baye Yimam

Ethiopian painter, diplomat, customs director, entrepreneur, linguist, university professor, and novelist, was born in Zage, Gojjam province of Ethiopia, on 10 July 1868. His father, Gebre Iyesus Denke, was a priest serving a local church, and his mother, Fenta Tehun Adego Ayechew, was presumably a housewife. In Zage, then a center of learning, Afewerq learned the painting, poetry, church music, and liturgical dancing of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian tradition.

Afewerq was related to Empress Taytu Betul, wife of Emperor Menilek (1844–1913 on account of which he was brought to the palace to continue what he had started in Zage He was later sent to Italy to further his studies at the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti in Turin Upon his return from Italy he began to produce mural paintings by order of the palace and decorated the churches at Entotto then the capital city However he soon ...

Article

Don E. Walicek

in the study of Creole languages, was born on 13 June 1933 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. His parents were Coleridge Alleyne, a builder and contractor, and Carmen Alleyne, an elementary school teacher. He has two children, Malou Alleyne-Harrison and Trevor Alleyne.

As a young man, Alleyne studied in Port of Spain’s Queen’s Royal College. He was later awarded a scholarship to the fledgling University College of the West Indies. This allowed him to complete his B.A. in Spanish and French in Jamaica. Alleyne completed graduate work in linguistic dialectology in France, where he worked at Lyon’s Institut de Linguistique Romane. His doctorat d’Université, the equivalent of a Ph.D., was awarded by the University of Strasbourg.

In 1959 Alleyne returned to Jamaica and began working at the University of the West Indies at Mona as a lecturer in Romance philology and French medieval literature He became one of ...

Article

Lutz Marten

Tanzanian linguist and academic, was born in Mwanza, Tanzania, on 1 January 1947, as the eighth child of Michael Masalu, medical assistant, and Melania Humbo. The family lived in the suburbs of Mwanza, a provincial town in the northwest of what was then Tanganyika. Before his birth, two of his father’s cousins had come to visit the family, but, because his uncle had mistreated him when he lived with them as an orphan, his father turned them away with the words “batiboyi abakanibyaala It is not them who gave birth to me These words were used to call the newborn child in the Sukuma culture Batibo s ethnic group children are named according to events or circumstances at the time of birth The long name was soon shortened to Batibo and used as his surname At Batibo s christening the Bavarian priest administering the baptism found the ...

Article

Frances J. Santiago

a sociolinguist specializing in ethnology and the study of the Creole language, was also a devout Guadeloupean wife, mother, and grandmother. She was born in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, on 7 April 1935. She was the granddaughter of a plantation owner in Guadeloupe, and her father married a mulâtresse who was an agricultural worker on his father’s plantation. Bébel-Gisler has said that her education stemmed from the paternal heritage, yet her rich cultural background and the imagination it cultivated stem directly from her mother’s humble origins.

As an adolescent Bébel Gisler was sent to France for her high school education In France she studied in Toulouse where she prepared for admission to college studies Demonstrating her great talent in French she was the only student to receive the Prix Spécial de Français which brought with it a grant that gave her access to the Grandes Écoles prestigious higher education establishments in ...

Article

Roxanna Nydia Curto

best known as one of the founders of the Créolité movement, which sought to forge a uniquely Creole identity and reject the central tenets of Negritude, was born in Lorrain, Martinique.

Trained at the University of Paris V, Bernabé completed his doctorate in Antillean Creole in 1982. His thesis “Fondal-natal: Grammaire basilecticale approchée des créoles guadeloupéens et martiniquais” was published in 1983 by L’Harmattan, and is the first large-scale study of an Antillean Creole by a native speaker of the language. He is also an agrégé of grammar and holds a docteur d’état in linguistics. Bernabé is currently professor emeritus of regional languages and cultures at the University of Antilles-Guyane, Schoelcher campus. During his time on the faculty there, he served as dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences for several years.

In 1975 after becoming a professor in the Department of Modern Languages at the ...

Article

Bethany K. Dumas

educator and linguist, was born in Monroe, Louisiana, the son of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Butler Sr. In 1956 he graduated as the valedictorian from Monroe's Carroll High School, then graduated magna cum laude with a BA from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1962 he earned an MA from the University of Texas at Austin, and in 1968 he got his PhD in English from the University of Michigan, where he specialized in linguistics. His doctoral dissertation, “Lexical Usage of Negroes in Northeast Louisiana,” was completed in 1968. It grew from questions addressed in his master's thesis, “The Vocabulary of Negroes in Austin, Texas.” Focusing on seven counties in northeast Louisiana in his dissertation research, Butler interviewed individuals using established questionnaire techniques and demonstrated that black speakers in those communities exhibited coastal southern patterns in their lexical (vocabulary) usage. Such terms as croker sack (rather than tow ...

Article

Don E. Walicek

was born on 16 May 1927 into a middle-class family in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His father, Montrosier Dejean, was an accountant who served for a time as the nation’s minister of finance, and his mother, Maria Parisot, was a homemaker. After completing his early education in Haiti, Dejean moved to New England, where he studied theology and thereafter entered the priesthood. He later returned to Haiti and served as a parish priest of Port-Salut for almost a decade. There, as the linguist Arthur Spears (2010) notes, Dejean used Haitian Creole with parishioners and translated the four Gospels from Greek into Haitian Creole. These experiences motivated him to pursue a graduate degree in language and linguistics. He earned an M.A. in biblical Hebrew from Johns Hopkins University in 1964 He returned home shortly thereafter but the violence of the François Duvalier regime forced him into exile in Paris five ...

Article

Ghirmai Negash

Eritrean-born Ethiopian linguist, Africanist scholar, and political activist, was born in Asmara, Eritrea. He was fluent in several European and African languages including Italian, French, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic, and Tigrinya, his mother tongue. His main area of expertise was linguistics, with particular focus on the Semitic languages of Eritrea and Ethiopia, but his intellectual interest covered a broad spectrum, including history, policy studies, and culture.

Demoz graduated from Haile Selassie University, Addis Ababa, with a bachelor’s degree in 1956. He received a master’s degree in education from Harvard University in 1957 and later studied linguistics at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received master’s and PhD degrees in Semitic languages in 1959 and 1964, respectively. Demoz started his professional career at Haile Selassie University, where he taught and served as dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1964 to 1967 He was also a ...

Article

Charles Geshekter

Somali linguist and cultural historian who devoted his life to demonstrating the inestimable value of the Somali cultural heritage, was born in northern Somalia. An alternate spelling of his name is Musa Haji Ismail Galaal. He grew up as a camel herder and, during this period, learned oratorical skills that made him a superb public speaker. He attended qurʾanic schools and maintained a lifetime commitment to Islam. Galaal served in the British military during World War II, then became a teacher, and was selected in 1951 to work with the linguist B. W. Andrzejewski at the University of London to help develop a system of writing for the Somali language.

Muuse recognized the inextricable connections between the Somali language and Somali oral literature He tested potential scripts by transcribing oral poems recited by old men of frail health and then reading them back aloud He spent many weeks at the bedside ...

Article

Ghirmai Negash

Eritrean Tigrinya-language writer, historian, translator, linguist, and professor of African languages, was born and grew up in Yeha, an ancient historical village in Tigray, the northernmost Ethiopian province bordering Eritrea. Yeha is remarkable for its unique and early archaeological sites, as well as for its proximity to and historical connections with the well-known city of Axum, which formed the center of the Axumite kingdom during the reign of the Queen of Sheba, and still remains Ethiopia’s oldest cultural center. Giyorgis is considered one of Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s most important intellectuals; he lived and wrote during the Italian colonial era in Eritrea. He is considered by many the true founder of secular, modern African literature in Tigrinya.

The consciousness of precolonial history evident in Yeha had a lasting influence on Giyorgis s imagination affecting everything he wrote from literature to history Another important influence on Giyorgis s formation as a native ...

Article

Dismas A. Masolo

Kagame, philosopher, linguist, and historian, was born in 1912 in Kiyanza, Rwanda. A member of the traditional Tutsi royalty, Kagame was educated in the local minor and major seminaries there before being ordained into the Catholic priesthood in 1941. He later studied philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome, where he obtained his doctoral degree in 1955. He died in Nairobi, Kenya, in December 1981.

Abbe Kagame is best known for his monumental work, La Philosophie Bantu-Rwandaise de l’Etre, published in Brussels in 1956 by the Belgian Académie Royale des Sciences Coloniales (Belgian Royal Academy of Colonial Sciences), to which he had been elected as a corresponding member since 1950 in recognition of his earlier publications which mainly featured collections of literary and historical texts gathered from the oral traditions of Rwanda and marked his dedication to the study and preservation of local knowledge ...

Article

Reuben M. Chirambo

Malawaian linguist, poet, and academic, was born in Kadango Village in the lake shore district of Mangochi in southern Malawi. He attended high school at Zomba Catholic Secondary School, then obtained his Diploma in Education and his BA from Chancellor College of the University of Malawi. He completed his MPhil at the Institute of Education of the University of London in 1975 and his PhD in Linguistics at University College London. In 1972 he joined the staff of the English Department at Chancellor College at the University of Malawi. The government of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and President Hastings K. Banda detained Mapanje without charge or trial in 1987 while he was serving as chair of the English Department; he was not released until 1992.

Mapanje is best defined by his poetry which uses the literary resources of oral culture to construct written poetry that challenges the hegemony of ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Jack Mapanje, one of Africa’s most respected poets and a scholar of linguistics, became an internationally recognized victim of censorship when the regime of Malawi’s president, Dr. Hastings Banda, imprisoned him without charges or trial in 1987. The human rights monitoring group Amnesty International declared him a political prisoner, and other groups, including those devoted to human rights and artistic freedom, launched a letter-writing campaign that resulted in his 1991 release.

Mapanje attended local Catholic schools as a child and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Malawi and a Ph.D. in linguistics from University College, London. While in London he wrote his first collection of poetry, Of Chameleons and Gods (1981), which contained much veiled criticism of the repressive Banda government but was not one of the many books that the government banned.

At about the time Of Chameleons and Gods was published ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

linguist and scholar, was born John Hamilton McWhorter V in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father was John McWhorter IV, a university administrator. His mother was a college professor, and so McWhorter's world was one of learning and educational attainment. He attended Friends Select School, a small Quaker K-12 school in Philadelphia, and was a precocious student who often felt himself more intelligent than his teachers and who reportedly began teaching himself Hebrew when he was still just a young child.

McWhorter's academic skill led him to be invited to attend the Bard College at Simon's Rock, a preparatory college for especially gifted young people in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He was in the tenth grade when he enrolled, and he graduated with honors and an associate's degree. He then matriculated at Rutgers, from which he graduated in 1985 with a B A in French and Romance Languages He removed ...

Article

Margaret Wade-Lewis

linguist, diplomat, and educator, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to Raleigh Morgan Sr., a porter at Union Station, and Adrien Louise Beasley Morgan. The eldest of three children, Raleigh Jr. lived with his extended family; his mother left the household when Morgan was four years old. In addition to his father (b. 1888), Morgan's nurturers were his grandfather Jackson (b. 1865), a business owner; his-grandmother Anna (b. 1868), a homemaker; his uncle John W. (b. 1890); and his aunts Elizabeth and Adrien (both b. 1895). His younger siblings were John Edward (b. 1918) and Helen A. (b. 1919).

Morgan took his first course in Latin at age twelve and began to study German and French at ages fourteen and fifteen respectively He eventually became a contemporary Renaissance man whose life unfolded in three phases professor and ...

Article

Paul Schauert

Ghanaian ethnomusicologist, linguist, composer, and poet, was born on 22 June 1921 in Ashanti Mampong in central Ghana. His full given name was Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia. His father, Akwasi Yeboa, and mother, Akua Adoma, were traders in a nearby village called Effiduase. After his father passed away when Kwabena was an infant, he was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents. With the help of his grandfather, Opanyin Kisi Amoa, and grandmother, Yaa Amankwaa, Nketia attended Mampong Asante Presbyterian Junior and Senior Schools. After completing his secondary education, in 1937 Nketia enrolled in the Presbyterian Training College at Akropong-Akwapim, where he focused on music and the Twi (Akan) language. In 1941 he received his teaching certificate and was subsequently appointed to teach music and Twi at the Training College After three years at the Training College Nketia received a two year scholarship to study linguistics at the University ...

Article

Elizabeth Hope Timbs

was born in Babanango, South Africa. I. N. Nyembezi, his father, worked as a Methodist minister, meaning that the family moved frequently. They lived in Babanango, Ingwavuma, Vryheid, Indaleni, Edendale, and Nyanyadu. Concerned with the impact of frequent moves on their sons’ education, Nyembezi’s mother and father sent the children to Driefontein to stay with his mother’s family. During his childhood, he attended schools in Vryheid and Driefontein, before training to become a teacher at Nuttall Training College in Edendale and Adams College in Amanzimtoti.

Nyembezi took his first teaching position at Newcastle Secondary School in 1938. He later earned a college education diploma and distinctions in English and Zulu at the University of Fort Hare in 1943. He continued his education at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1945 pursuing a B A Honors degree During his time there he became a language assistant in the ...

Article

Bethany K. Dumas

linguistics professor, was born in Georgetown, Guyana, the youngest of the ten children of Eula (nee Wade), a homemaker, and Russell Howell Rickford, an accountant and auditor. In 1968 he began studying in California on a U.S. scholarship at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC). He worked closely with anthropology Professor Roger Keesing and Professor J. Herman Blake, an African American sociologist who was working on the biography of Huey Newton (whom Rickford later met). It was through a program of Blake's that Rickford first went out to Daufuskie Island, one of the South Carolina Sea Islands, in 1970, an experience that he described as “life/career changing in many ways” (personal interview with subject, 2007).

Rickford once said that as a mixed race person his black consciousness and identity crystallized when he came to the United States He was elected president of the ...

Article

Bethany K. Dumas

linguist and educator, was born in the rural outskirts of Brownsville, Tennessee. Her education began at the age of four in a one-room schoolhouse. She reminisced: “My father, a self-educated, self-made man, would always say that with education, a person could accomplish anything. Believing that, I threw myself into school with a passionate zeal after we moved to Detroit. I was double-promoted in the regular school year, and I advanced grade levels by attending summer school every year” (personal interview). One month after her fifteenth birthday, Smitherman entered Wayne State University in Detroit, where she earned a BA (1960) and an MA (1962) in English and Latin. While teaching English and Latin in the Detroit Public Schools for five years, she also earned a PhD in English at the University of Michigan (1969 Her original goal had been to take charge of ...

Article

Margaret Wade-Lewis

linguist, anthropologist, and activist, was born in Kansas City, Kansas, to Mack Spears Sr. and C. R. Spears. Both his parents were from enterprising, educated, upper-middle-class families. Mack Spears Sr. taught at Lincoln University at Sumner High School and at the black branch of the segregated Kansas City Kansas Community College He received a master s degree in Business at the University of Kansas in the early 1930s and was active in bringing the AFL Teachers Union to the public schools in Kansas City Kansas and in managing his father s estate and other businesses in the twin cities of Kansas City Kansas and Kansas City Missouri Becoming one of the key business leaders in the black community he initiated various projects including the first black housing development the eponymous Spears Crest built on a portion of a tract of property he owned Mack Spears ...