Research Methodologies in Urban Wolof Studies: A Critical Review of the Literature and Suggestion for New Analytical Perspectives

  • Aziz Dieng University of Portsmouth, England, United Kingdom
Keywords: Urban Wolof, translanguaging, codeswitching, codemixing, transmigration, linguistic ethnography


The aim of this review is to offer a reconceptualization of urban Wolof, the language of millions of Senegalese in Senegal and abroad, in the light of the translanguaging theory. Whereas most of the Urban Wolof literature is principally limited to how this languaging form is spoken in Senegal, the present study considers the effects of mobility on urban Wolof by establishing a correlation between transmigration and translanguaging. Going beyond the confines of Senegal, this investigation examines how the Senegalese diasporans engage in their daily translanguaging practices, as they move across borders, in their capacity as mobile multilingual transmigrants. The review offers a more speaker-centred stance, a sort of bottom-up approach to language, the objective being to move away from the a priori assumptions that the urban Wolophone shuttles between languages or codes, and away from the rigidity of code-based theoretical approaches through which scholars have thus far examined urban Wolof. As such, a more decolonised approach in terms of participatory data collection and analysis is now more than ever in order. And this endeavour should be facilitated by the affordances of the ethnographic gaze of an in-group member.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

PlumX Statistics


1. Adami, E. (2019). Multimodal sign-making in today’s diversity: the case of Leeds Kirkgate market. In A. Sherris & E. Adami (Eds.), Making signs, translanguaging ethnographies: exploring urban, rural and educational spaces (pp. 36-54). Multilingual Matters.
2. Adami, E., Sherris, A. (2019). Threading possible readings, imaging new beginnings. In A. Sherris & E. Adami (Eds.), Making signs, translanguaging ethnographies: exploring urban, rural and educational spaces (pp. 30-34). Multilingual Matters.
3. Attino, M. (2021). Parenté à plaisanterie ou cousinage entre les Dogons et les Songhays au Mali. European Scientific Journal, ESJ, 17(13), 1-20.
4. Banda, F., Jimaima, H., & Mokwena, L. (2019). Semiotic remediation of Chinese signage in the linguistic landscape of two rural areas of Zambia. In A. Sherris & E. Adami (Eds.), Making signs, translanguaging ethnographies: exploring urban, rural and educational spaces (pp. 74-90). Multilingual Matters.
5. Bell, A. (1984). Language style as audience design, Language in Society, 13(2), 145–204.
6. Bhabha, H. K. (1990). The third space. In J. Rutherford (Ed.), Identity: community, culture, difference (pp. 207–221). Lawrence and Wishart.
7. Blommaert, J. & Jie, D. (2010). Ethnographic fieldwork: A Beginner's Guide. Multilingual Matters.
8. Calvet, L. J. (1994a). Quel modèle sociolinguistique pour le Sénégal ? ou il n'y a pas que la véhiculante. Langage et Société, 68(1), 89-107.
9. Calvet, L. J. (1994b). Les voix de la ville: introduction à la sociolinguistique urbaine. Payot.
10. Canagarajah, S. (2011a). Codemeshing in academic writing: identifying teachable strategies of translanguaging. The Modern Language Journal, 95(3), 401-417.
11. Chandler, D. (2007). Semiotics the basics (2nd ed.). Routledge.
12. Dialo, A. (1985). Éléments expressifs du wolof contemporain: gestes, signaux oraux, unités significatives nasalisés, interjections, onomatopés, impressifs. Langues Nationales au Sénégal. Centre de Linguistique Appliquée de Dakar.
13. Dieng, A. (2021). Wolof across borders: a reconceptualization of urban Wolof from a translanguaging perspective with a case study of Senegalese transmigrants (PhD thesis).
14. Diop, S. (2006). The Wolof epic: from spoken word to written text. Research in African Literatures, 37(3), 120-132.
15. Dreyfus, M., & Juillard, C. (2001). Le jeu de l’alternance dans la vie quotidienne des jeunes scolarisés à Dakar et Ziguinchor (Sénégal), Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines, 163, 667-696.
16. Dumont, P. (1983). Le français et les langues africaines au Sénégal. Karthala.
17. García, O., & Li Wei (2014). Translanguaging: language, bilingualism and education. Macmillan.
18. García, O., & Otheguy, R. (2020). Plurilingualism and translanguaging: commonalities and divergences. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 23(1), 17–35.
19. García, O., Otheguy, R., & Reid, W. (2018). A translanguaging view of the linguistic system of bilinguals. Applied Linguistics Review, 1-27.
20. Gil, D. (2013). Para-linguistic usages of clicks. In: S. M. Dryer & M. Haspelmath, (Eds.). The world Atlas of language structures online.
21. Goodchild, S., & Weidl, M. (2019). Translanguaging practices in the Casamance, Senegal: similar but different – two case studies. In A. Sherris & E. Adami (Eds.), Making signs, translanguaging ethnographies: exploring urban, rural and educational spaces (pp. 123–142). Multilingual Matters.
22. Grenoble, L.A., Martinoviç, M. & Baglini. R. (2015). Verbal gestures in Wolof. In R. Kramer et al. (Eds.), Selected proceedings of the 44th annual conference on African linguistics (pp. 110-121).
23. Irvine, J. T. (2011). Société et communication chez les wolof à travers le temps et l’espace. In A. M. Diagne, S. Kesseler & C. Meyer (Eds.), Communication wolof et société sénégalaise: héritage et création (pp. 37-70). L’Harmattan.
24. Irvine, J. T. (2012). Keeping Ethnography in the Study of Communication. Langage et Société, 139(1), 47.
25. Juillard, C.; Moreau, M. L.; Ndao, P. A.; Thiam, N. (1994). Leur wolof dit-il qui ils sont ? La perception des appartenances régionales et ethniques au travers du wolof urbain parlé par les adolescents. Langage & Société, 35-62.
26. Kvale, S. (1996). InterViews: an introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Sage.
27. Laverty, S. M. (2003). Hermeneutic phenomenology and phenomenology: a comparison of historical and methodological considerations. International Institute for Qualitative Methods, 2(3), 21-35.
28. Legendre, G., & Schindler, M. (2010). Code switching in Urban Wolof: A case for violable constraints in syntax. Revista Virtual de Estudos da Linguagem-ReVEL, 8, 47-75.
29. Li Wei. (2011). Moment Analysis and translanguaging space: discursive construction of identities by multilingual Chinese youth in Britain. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(5), 1222-1235.
30. Li Wei. (2018). Translanguaging as a Practical Theory of Language. Applied Linguistics, 39(1), 9–30.
31. MacSwan, J. (1999). A minimalist approach to intrasentential code switching. Garland.
32. MacSwan, J. (2005). Codeswitching and generative grammar: a critique of the MLF model and some remarks on “modified minimalism.” Bilingualism, Language and Cognition 8(1), 1-22.
33. MacSwan, J. (2009). Generative approaches to codeswitching. In B. E. Bullock & A. J. Toribio (Eds.), Cambridge handbook of linguistic codeswitching (pp. 309-335). Cambridge University Press.
34. MacSwan, J. (2017). A multilingual perspective on translanguaging. American Educational Research Journal, 54(1), 167–201.
35. Makalela, L. & Dhokotera, C. (2021, June 11). To know and to be of ubuntu translanguaging: Towards multilingual multilingualism for decoloniality and sustainable development in Africa [Video file].
36. Mazzaferro G. (2018). Translanguaging as everyday practice. An introduction. In: G. Mazzaferro (Ed), Translanguaging as everyday practice. Multilingual Education, 28. Springer, Cham.
37. McLaughlin, F. (2014). Senegalese digital repertoires in superdiversity: A case study from Seneweb. Discourse, Context and Media, 4–5, 29–37.
38. McLaughlin, F. (2001). Dakar Wolof and the configuration of an urban identity, Journal of African Cultural Studies, 14(2), 153-172.
39. McLaughlin, F. (2008a). The ascent of Wolof as a lingua franca. In C.B. Vigouroux & S.S. Mufwene (Eds.), Globalization and language vitality: perspective from black Africa (pp. 142-170). Continuum International Publishing Group.
40. McLaughlin, F. (2008b). Senegal: the emergence of a national lingua franca. In A. Simpson (Ed.), Language & national identity in Africa (pp. 79-97). Oxford University Press.
41. McLaughlin, F. (2008c). On the origins of urban Wolof: evidence from Louis Descemet’s 1864 phrasebook, Language in Society, 37(5), 713-735. Retrieved from
42. McLaughlin, F. (2015). Can a language endanger itself? Reshaping repertoires in urban Senegal. In J. Essegbey, B. Henderson & F. McLaughlin (Eds.), Language Documentation and Endangerment in Africa (pp. 131-152). John Benjamins.
43. McLaughlin, F. (2022). Senegal: urban Wolof then and now. In P. Kerswill & H. Weise (Eds.), Urban contact dialects and language change: insights from the Global North and South (pp. 47-65). Routledge.
44. Muysken, P. (1997). Code-switching processes: Alternation, insertion, congruent lexicalization. In M. Pütz (Ed.), Language choices: conditions, constraints, and consequences (pp. 361–380). Benjamins.
45. Muysken, P. (2000). Bilingual speech. A typology of code-mixing. Cambridge University Press.
46. Muysken, P. (2013). Language contact outcomes as the result of bilingual optimization strategies. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 16(4), 709-730.
47. Myers-Scotton, C. (1993a). Duelling languages: grammatical structure in codeswitching. Clarendon Press.
48. Myers-Scotton, C. (1993b). Building the frame in codeswitching: evidence from Africa. In S. S. Mufwene, & L. Moshi, (Eds.), Topics in African linguistics : papers from the xxi annual conference on African linguistics, University of Georgia, April 1990 (pp. 253-278). John Benjamins Publishing Company.
49. Myers-Scotton, C. (1995). Social motivations for code switching: evidence from Africa (New ed.). Oxford University Press.
50. Myers-Scotton, C. M., & Jake, J. L. (2017). Revisiting the 4-M model: codeswitching and morpheme election at the abstract level. International Journal of Bilingualism, 21(3), 340–366.
51. NGom, F. (2003). The social status of Arabic, French, and English in the Senegalese speech community. Language Variation and Change, 15(3), 351–368.
52. NGom, F. (2006). Loanwords in the Senegalese speech community: their linguistics features and sociolinguistic significance. Language, Communication, Information, 1, 103-113. Retrieved from
53. O’Brien, D. C. (1998). The shadow-politics of Wolofisation. Journal of Modern African Studies, 36(1), 25–46.
54. Otheguy, R., García, O., & Reid, W. (2015). Clarifying translanguaging and deconstructing named languages: A perspective from linguistics. Applied Linguistics Review, 6(3), 281–307.
55. Otsuji, E., & Pennycook, A. (2015). Metrolingualism: language in the city . Routledge.
56. Pennycook, A. (2017). Translanguaging and Semiotic Assemblages. International Journal of Multilingualism 14(3), 269–282.
57. Perera, N. (2019). Gesture and translanguaging at the Tamil temple. In A. Sherris & E. Adami (Eds.), Making signs, translanguaging ethnographies: exploring urban, rural and educational spaces (pp. 112-132). Multilingual Matters.
58. Perry, D. L. (1997). Rural Ideologies and Urban Imaginings: Wolof Immigrants in New York City. Africa Today, 44(2), 229-260.
59. Poplack, S. (1988). Conséquences linguistiques du contact des langues: un modèle d’analyse variationniste. Langage et Société, 43, 23-48.
60. Poplack, S. (2018). Borrowing: loanwords in the speech community and in the grammar. Oxford University Press.
61. République du Sénégal (2005). Décret n° 2005-992 du 21 octobre 2005 relatif à l'orthographe et à la séparation des mots en wolof. Journal Officiel.
62. Schindler, M., Legendre, G., & Mbaye, A. (2008). Violations of the PF Interface Condition in Urban Wolof. The Panels, 169-184.
63. Shiohata, M. (2012). Language use along the urban street in Senegal: perspectives from proprietors of commercial signs, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 33(3), 269-285.
64. Smith, M. A. (2019). Senegal abroad: linguistic borders, racial formations, and diasporic imaginaries. The University of Wisconsin Press.
65. Swigart, L. (1992). Two codes or one? The insiders’ view and the description of codeswitching in Dakar. In C.M. Eastman (Ed.), Codeswitching (pp. 83-102). Multilingual Matters Ltd.
66. Swigart, L. (1994). Cultural creolisation and language use in post-colonial Africa: the case of Senegal. Journal of the International African Institute, 64(2), 175-189.
67. Thiam, N. (1994). La variation sociolinguistique du code mixte wolof-français à Dakar: une première approche, Langage et Société, 68, 11-34.
68. Torrence, H. (2013). Clause structure of Wolof: Insights into the left periphery. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
69. Tramutoli, L. (2021). The code-mixing of the Senegalese migrants in Italy. International Journal of Bilingualism, 1-28.
70. Vogel, S., & García, O. (2017). Translanguaging. Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Education, 1-18.
How to Cite
Dieng, A. (2022). Research Methodologies in Urban Wolof Studies: A Critical Review of the Literature and Suggestion for New Analytical Perspectives. European Scientific Journal, ESJ, 18(20), 22.
ESJ Humanities