Gender and language in sub-Saharan African contexts

Issues and challenges


  • Lilian Atanga University of Dschang
  • Sibonile Edith Ellece University of Botswana
  • Lia Litosseliti City, University of London
  • Jane Sunderland Lancaster University



gender, context, Africa, discourse, feminism


In this paper, we examine a range of issues associated with the study of gender and language in sub-Saharan African contexts. These include whether (and in what sense) such contexts may constitute a ‘special case’, the relevance of feminism, and what might be encompassed by ‘context’, ‘African contexts’ and ‘African topics’ – and a substantial amount of what we write is relevant to Applied Linguistics in Africa more broadly (see Makoni and Meinhof 2004 for a discussion). We argue that while all the gender issues are of interest and importance to language and gender study in general, it is possible to see some of these issues as ‘characteristic’ of African contexts (albeit with ‘echoes’ elsewhere). It will be evident from this first paper (and those which follow) that along with taking on board commonalities in terms of the theoretical notions used in our field in African and non-African contexts, there is also a need to recognise a range of situated understandings of gender identities, gender relations, understandings of gender more broadly, and feminism.

Author Biographies

  • Lilian Atanga, University of Dschang

    Lilian Atanga is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Dschang, Cameroon. She specializes in the area of gender and language and discourse analysis. She is particularly interested in the way Cameroonian women negotiate gender relations in political contexts especially the parliament, and how gender identities are discursively constructed within the society. Her publications include Gender, Discourse and Power in the Cameroonian Parliament (2010), Bamenda.

  • Sibonile Edith Ellece, University of Botswana

    Sibonile Edith Ellece is a Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Botswana. Her areas of specialization include the gender and language interface; discourse analysis and pragmatics. Following her PhD thesis on Marriage Discourses in Botswana, she has published journal articles and book chapters, and presented a wide range of conference and seminar papers on the subject. She has been involved in the Gender and Language in African Contexts project which entailed co-organising a series of seminars and conferences held in Leeds, UK; Gaborone, Botswana; London, UK; Dschang, Cameroon and Ile Ife, Nigeria.

  • Lia Litosseliti, City, University of London

    Lia Litosseliti is a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and Programme Director in the Department of Language and Communication Science at City University London, UK. Her research interests are in the areas of gender and language, discourse analysis, and research methodologies. She is the author of Using Focus Groups in Research (2003) and Gender and Language: Theory and Practice (2006); editor of Research Methods in Linguistics (2010); and co-editor of Gender Identity and Discourse Analysis (2002) and Gender and Language Research Methodologies (2008).

  • Jane Sunderland, Lancaster University

    Jane Sunderland is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University. As a result of a National Teaching Fellowship, she was able to travel to and run seminars on Gender and Language in African Contexts with colleagues Lilian Atanga, Sibonile Ellece and Lia Litosseliti in Botswana, Cameroon, Nigeria and the UK. Her main research area is gender and language, and she is also interested in gender representation in children’s fiction, gendered discourses, multimodality, and boys’ literacies in relation to the ‘Harry Potter’ series. She is also Director of Studies of Lancaster University’s PhD in Applied Linguistics by Thesis and Coursework.


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Gender and Language in Sub-Saharan African Contexts: Research Agendas

How to Cite

Atanga, L., Ellece, S. E., Litosseliti, L., & Sunderland, J. (2012). Gender and language in sub-Saharan African contexts: Issues and challenges. Gender and Language, 6(1), 1-20.