Literacies in contact when writing Wolof – translanguaging and orthographic repertoires in digital communication

Journal article by K. V. Lexander in Written Language and Literacy, published online February 2021.


This paper investigates the resources writers activate when they spell Wolof, a West African language they usually use more in spoken than in written communication. I apply the notion of orthographic repertoire to examine three young women’s spelling of Wolof as socially embedded practices. The analysis covers three different sets of interactional data: (1) texting by Senegalese university students, (2) discussion forum posts, and (3) transnational digital family interaction. The spelling practices are examined with reference to the colonial history of spelling in Senegal, other contemporary informal literacies in West Africa, and the sociolinguistic context of the writers. The paper shows that the different spelling resources related to the multilingual and mediated nature of their writing are drawn upon as the three young women engage in digital literacy practices including Wolof.

Keywords: multilingualism, SMS, texting, discussion forums, Messenger, Senegal, Wolof, French

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Published June 1, 2021 1:38 PM - Last modified June 1, 2021 1:38 PM