AFRICAN LINGUISTIC SURVIVALS IN THE UNITED STATES
Ask the average speaker of English to list terms that have entered the language from European languages
such as Greek, Latin, French or Italian, and chances are that you'll get a veritable catalog. Similarly, most
probably could offer a long list of lexical borrowings from various Asian and Amerindian languages. That
same request for African-derived words in English, on the other hand, likely will elicit blank stares on the
part of most. Of those who do have a clue, the bet is that they'll be able to offer up no more than a handful
of examples, such as banjo, gumbo, okra, tote and voodoo.
The fact is that Africanisms abound in the English of the United States. Though largely confined to English
varieties spoken by blacks -- the Gullah/Geechee of coastal South Carolina and Georgia and the more
widespread African-American Vernacular -- some African-derived vocabulary items also occur in the speech
of members of the larger society, particularly that of white Southerners. This presentation provides insights
into the contributions made to the English of the United States by West and African Central African
languages such as Wolof, Fulfulde, Mende, Kikongo, and Tshiluba. Some of the items discussed are
direct carryovers -- among them jive, fuzz, wow!, ninny, juke, okay, moola, poop, biddy, poot, guy,
fella/fellow, jabber, gooba/goober, chick/chicken, jamboree, and jam -- that have become so anglicized that
their African parentage often is obscured. Others are calques (literal translations) of African words and
phrases, such as sweet mouth, big eye, eye water, and mouth water.
Applications: This lecture -- the result of some 25 years of primary and secondary research which will be
included in a forthcoming book on African linguistic retentions -- can be used to augment classroom lessons,
to flesh out special events programs, etc.
AFRICAN-DERIVED NAMES IN THE UNITED STATES
The prevaling view among scholars and laypersons alike is that the use of African names, like African
languages, died out under slavery in the United States. The reality is that, though their use was curtailed, an
unbroken underground tradition of employing African names has survived to this day.
As explained in this presentation -- the result of some 15 years of primary and secondary research, which
will be included in a forthcoming book of the same title -- a number of African-derived names have pretty much
retained their original forms. These include given names and nicknames such as Nina, Gussie, Sonny,
Doodoo, Baybay, Bubba, Ola and Obi, and surnames such as Barry, Mingo, Mango and Cudjoe. Others
offer no hint of their African origin, either because they have been "masked" by similar sounding English
names or because their forms were changed through translation (e. g., the surnames Mondy/Mundy, from
the Akan male day name Kwadwo, "born on Monday," and Friday, from the Akan male day name Kofi, "born
Applications: This lecture can be used to augment classroom lessons, to flesh out special events programs,
THE NAMING OF AFRICA: ORIGINS OF THE NAMES OF THE CONTINENT'S NATIONS, CITIES, AND
Ask the average American to list countries found on the European continent, and the chances are that you
will get a veritable catalog. Similarly, most probably could offer a long list of countries found in Asia and in
For the most part, citizens of the United States tend to be woefully ignorant of African geography -- so
much so that someone born in, say, Senegal, when asked their country of origin, often will feel the need
to append "West Africa" to their answer. On the other hand, someone from Spain or Thailand is unlikely
to feel a need to add "Europe" or "Asia" to pinpoint the location of their respective countries of origin. To make
matters worse, there still are a few souls, particularly among the young, who do not know that Africa is a
continent and not a country, or that Egypt and the other Arabic-speaking Saharan nations are situated in
Africa rather than in the amorphous geographic entity called the Middle East.
This interactive presentation addresses the paucity of knowledge of African geography by engaging
participants in a discussion of the origins and meanings of the names of the various African countries --
some indigenous and some bestowed by outsiders -- as well as of the several regions and geographic
features found on this, the second-largest of the world's continents.
Applications: Talk can be used to augment classroom lessons, to flesh out special events programs, etc.
African/African-American Language Safari
In this program, designed for youngsters from 8 to 14 years of age, participants learn basic phrases,
numbers, colors, etc., in one of the following African languages or New World speech systems:
Bamanakan (Bambara), Wolof, Kiswahili, Jamaican Creole (Patwa), Haitian Creole.
Applications: This offering can be used as an adjunct to classroom lessons, after-school programs, etc.
Musical Instruments of West Africa
Musical Instruments of Central and Eastern Africa
African-Derived Musical Instruments of the Caribbean and the Bahamas
African-Derived Musical Instruments of Central and South America
African-Derived Musical Instruments of the United States
Presentations include a discussion of the instruments' traditional and contemporary uses and a
demonstration of playing techniques.
Applications: Lecture-demonstrations can be used to augment classroom lessons or to flesh out museum
exhibitions, festival activities and other special events programs.
MUSICAL INSTRUMENT-MAKING WORKSHOPS
Workshops feature step-by-step instruction in the making of the following African and African-derived
musical instruments (See pictures by clicking on the names.):
To request rate information, click on the "Presentation Request" tab above and, on the pop-up form, check the box opposite the activity in which you are interested. After making your selection, click on the "Submit" tab at the lower left corner of the form.