Funding to enhance linguistics career prospects in East Africa

  • Date

    Fri 23 Jun 23

A picture of a globe with the focus on a map of Africa

Academics from the University of Essex have received funding from the British Academy to support new writing workshops for linguistics students in East Africa.

The £30,000 award allows the team from the Department of Language and Linguistics to train and mentor Early Career Researchers (ECRs) and postgraduate students.

The project, called ‘Sharpening the lens: enhancing linguistics career prospects in East Africa’, will allow students to understand the process of producing high-quality outputs from their research, to develop their skills, and to come up with ideas which will ensure sustained productivity throughout their careers.

Dr Kyle Jerro and Professor Nancy Kula from Essex are leading the project alongside two academics from East Africa – Dr Justine Mukhwana Sikuku from Moi University in Kenya, and Professor Edith Natukunda Togboa from Makerere University in Uganda.

The focus on East Africa aims to promote Africa-based linguistics research to allow local researchers to engage in global debates and thinking, which in many cases are driven by insights drawn from the number of languages spoken in the region.

Dr Jerro said: “The field of linguistics has long been dominated by empirical research on Western European languages, and by Western-based and Western-trained researchers conducting ‘fieldwork’ on languages spoken across the Global South, theorising and furthering linguistic endeavours based on findings on these languages.

“Part of the goal of this programme is to develop the skills of ECRs to help them continue to contribute to research on African Linguistics that has the scope to continue to shape the field in novel ways as well as provide them tools to drive the larger research agenda in research on African languages.”

There are four countries involved in the project – Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda – and the proposed programme will bring together ECRs, advanced PhD students, journal editors, and experienced academics in both African and general linguistics.

The project has three goals. Firstly, to develop writing skills for ECRs and give them an understanding of the publishing mind-frame; secondly, to build capacity by strengthening research relations through the Language Association of East Africa (LAEA); and thirdly, to support the efforts of regional universities to grow local talent.

The project will involve two in-person workshops, participation in a conference, two Zoom training sessions with journal editors and funders or research officers, as well as a general introductory Zoom session and follow-up online sessions.

Professor Kula said: “We are delighted to receive this funding which will allows us to not only train ECRs in their linguistic writing but also allow them to start creating crucial networks in the region and also internationally.

“These relationships are usually important springboards for successful careers engendering collaborative research that allows the development of innovative ideas.”