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Axel Fleisch

Born 6 December 1968, Langenhagen (Hanover), Germany

MA African Studies, 1995, Univ. of Cologne; PhD African Studies, 2000, Univ. of Cologne

Professor in African Studies 2008–, University of Helsinki
University lecturer 2007, University of Leipzig
Senior researcher 2005–2006, University of Cologne
Postdoctoral fellow “Cognitive semantics, Nguni languages” 2002–2004, University of California, Berkeley
Junior Researcher of Namibia/Angola 1995–2001, Collaborative Research Centre “Arid Climate and Cultural Innovation”, University of Cologne

Main research interests:
Descriptive linguistics, documentation of African languages (especially Bantu and Amazigh/Berber)

Publications, projects and other scientific activities

Prized and awards:
German Research Council. Postdoctoral fellowship 2002–2004.
Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study 2010, 2013–2014.

Photo: Joaquín Fanego Palat
Written by: Axel Fleisch and Tomas Sjöblom (ed.)

There is potential in the isiNdebele language

Orlando West (Soweto), Johannesburg. Photo: Axel Fleisch​​
Orlando West (Soweto), Johannesburg. Photo: Axel Fleisch​​

Gauteng is South Africa’s smallest, yet most populated province. Its capital is the economic hub Johannesburg. Further to the north lies Pretoria, South Africa’s executive capital with the seat of the South African government.

A team with members from Helsinki, Gothenburg, Pretoria and Cape Town is currently carrying out research on language contact in the extremely multilingual and dynamic peri-urban areas close to these major South African cities.

The speakers of South African isiNdebele who live there strive for the development of their language. While isiNdebele is one of the country’s official languages, there is little by way of linguistic analysis. Translators in courtrooms, hospitals and the parliament, however, need to do their work. School teachers are supposed to educate the next generation of South Africans battling against the persisting socio-economic imbalances – a legacy of the apartheid system.

All of them know that South Africa needs skills and these can ultimately only be gained when people are taught in their own language.

African colleagues are working hard to promote their languages, to build the resources and raise the necessary awareness: Their fellow South African citizens need to recognize the full potential which lies in the use of the African languages for building a shared future. We support these processes with our language analysis of isiNdebele and our research into the sociolinguistic dynamics of that language.

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