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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 ...

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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

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

linguist, politician, and diplomat in the Seychelles, was born Danielle d’Offay, on 30 September 1941 on Mahé, the main island of the Seychelles archipelago. Descended from a historical Franco-Seychellois family, Danielle de St Jorre completed her secondary education and her university studies in the UK. She obtained her Master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1965 and a postgraduate certificate in education a year later from the University of London. Her growing interest in language and education led her to return to UK in the 1970s for a BPhil in linguistics at York University. Returning to the Seychelles, she joined the Teachers Training College, which she headed for some time before her appointment as principal secretary to the minister of education.

In 1976 St Jorre participated in the first Colloque International d Études Créoles International Conference on Creole Studies held in Nice France The main outcome of that ...

Article

Ezekiel Gebissa

Ethiopian linguist, historian, evangelist, and social reformer, was born in the village of Yefag in Begemder region, northwestern Ethiopia, on 30 March 1860. His father, a staunch Orthodox Christian and a wealthy landowner, sent Tayye to the traditional church school in the village. His mother died in 1867 while his father was on a business trip from which he never returned. Tayye ventured as far as Massawa on the Red Sea coast in search of his uncle. Sometime between 1875 and 1878, he applied for and was admitted to the Swedish Evangelical Mission School for boys at Emkullu near Massawa. Tayye avidly studied the traditions of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, scrutinizing their scriptural foundation. In 1881, feeling that he had found the true faith, he became a communicant member of the Lutheran congregation in Imkulu.

Devoted to studying the heritage of his country Tayye returned to Begemder ...