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A warm welcome to the website of ICL 20, the 20th International Congress of Linguists. The congress is to be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre between the 2nd to the 6th of July 2018. The hosts are CIPL (Comité International Permanent des Linguistes), the LSSA (Linguistics Society of Southern Africa) and UCT (the University of Cape Town). Our partner organisations are given below. Please follow the links to find out more about these dynamic organisations.

The Congress is held every five years, and is meant to showcase current developments in Linguistics. The Congress will run over five days, have a plenary panel on linguistics in South Africa, nine plenary speakers covering a range of major sub-fields, 10 paper sessions each with its own focus speaker, up to 30 workshops, and several poster sessions. While speakers and topics are drawn from a wide international pool, ICL 20 will take the additional opportunity of showcasing African language research. It will also cover applied linguistic areas of research of vital importance to the African continent and the 21st century at large, with a special extended session on Multilingualism, Education, Policy and Development.

Please take a look at the pages on our Scientific Committee, our invited plenary speakers, session topics and call for workshop proposals and abstracts. If you haven’t visited Cape Town before, please also have a look at some of the images of a beautiful and diverse city. We look forward to welcoming you at the tip of Africa in July 2018.

Prof. Rajend Mesthrie

President ICL 20.
June 2016.

In conjunction with Prof. D. Bradley. President CIPL

Hosts & Supporting/Partner Associations


Comité International Permanent des Linguistes / Permanent International Committee of Linguists

Linguistics Society of Southern Africa

Southern African Applied Linguistics Association

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University of Cape Town
African Language Association of Southern Africa

South African Association for ​Language Teaching


Registration NOW OPEN!
27 June 2018 Online Registration Closes


Water situation in Cape Town
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2 - 6 July 2018


Prof. Rebecca Grollemund (University of Missouri)

Starting from the 21st century, new methods called phylogenetic methods, borrowed from the field of genetic biology have been employed in order to classify languages. Indeed, the numerous analogies established between biological evolution and language evolution have allowed demonstrating that the phylogenetic tools (allowing the reconstruction of the evolutionary history of species) can also be applied to languages.

The presentation will introduce these phylogenetic methods and will discuss the results obtained for Bantu and Niger-Congo languages spoken in Africa. The method used (‘relaxed clock dating method’) for the Bantu languages has allowed us to obtain the first dated phylogenetic classification of the Bantu languages (Grollemund et al. 2015). The analysis of the phylogeny has shown that the Bantu expansion was triggered by climatic changes that occurred in the Bantu area during these past 5,000 years. The presentation will also present first phylogenetic tree for the Niger-Congo family, which was developed using a different technique. Niger-Congo constitutes the largest African language family in terms of geographical area (the Niger-Congo languages cover the greater part of Sub-Saharan Africa), the number of speakers (more than 300 million speakers) and the number of distinct languages (approximately 1,400 languages spoken). The first results indicate that the Niger-Congo family forms a genetic unity.

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