View the H-Africa Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in H-Africa's December 2007 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in H-Africa's December 2007 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the H-Africa home page.
I'm gratified by the response on this thread and by the numerous related topics raised and regional examples given. Since one of the examples I began with was the Fula cultural and language group (searching for a way to put it broadly), and several people have commented on specific terms, perhaps it is opportune to for me to return to it now. On the question of how to call the language, Eric Ross and Gretchen Pfeil point to use of "Pulaar" in Senegal and vicinity, while Ralph Austen reminds us about "Fulfulde" which indeed is the "autonym" for the language in most of the rest of West Africa. Some scholars have actually proposed that Fulfulde is the term to use when speaking about the region (Salimata Sow and Anneke Breedveld have specifically made this case, as have others at least by usage, though I have not kept up with the recent literature). But my question is whether the terms long used in English (Fula and Fulani), but now apparently out of fashion in scholarship - yet still used popularly in English, including in Africa - have an ongoing role. "Fula language" neatly covers Pulaar, Pular and Fulfulde in cases where one needs to refer in English to the larger liguistic reality. Indeed, "Fulah" is retained in this role in ISO 639 (the coding system that William Minter referred to in this thread; the list is bilingual English-French and Peul is the French equivalent). Peul, the French term for the language and people, could be viewed as simply the analogue of Fula (or Fulani) in English. Perhaps these terms are useful for some levels of discussion (such as regional), or depending on the audience, but not as helpful in other types of discussion. For those knowing at least a little bit about the language and culture, deciphering the various derivatives of the root Ful- is not so problematic. For situations that need standard usages, or for wider audiences including classes, the array of alternative terms can be problematic. I have the impression that in West Africa, a lot of foreigners, especially in the development community, are hazy about the relationship of "Peul" and "Fula(ni)" partly because "Peul" is often used in English without the connection being clarified (I use the "tomayto-tomahto" analogy to describe this - there are lots of kinds of tomatoes but this difference in pronunciation does not help distinguish those; it might however confuse someone who had no experience in the matter and takes the two to stand for meaningful categories). Names for the people is another discussion which I will hold for later.