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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


Salikoko Mufwene (University of Chicago) 

An important contribution of genetic creolistics to genetic linguistics is the light it sheds on the role of language contact in the speciation of the languages, viz., those that prevail while often also driving their competitors to extinction. This is evident not only in the emergence of creoles and the Romance languages, concurrent with the demise of numerous Celtic languages, but also in the dispersal of Proto-Bantu and its speciation into so many Bantu languages, at the expense of Pygmy and Khoisan languages.

However, there is much more than meets the eye in these diachronic developments. At the population level, language contact presupposes population movement and depends largely on the ensuing population structure. Africa has quite a story to tell regarding the causes of such movements and how they have proceeded, starting with the Exodus out of Africa, and variation in the ensuing population structures involving layers of internal or external colonization (i.e., relocation to and domestication of new territories, with or without domination of another population). The causes include natural ecological changes, degrading economies, and political conflicts. In this paper I wish to articulate the contribution that African linguistics has made and can still make to evolutionary linguistics from the study of language contact at the population level and from an ecological perspective.

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