Languages Market in the Horn of Africa
: a case study of Djibouti

  • Said Dirie

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The linguistic settings of Djibouti, where French was the only official language until 1992, has beenaltered through the independence; the displaced people and transformations brought by wars in the Hornof Africa over the last few decades. In response to these linguistic transformations, this sociolinguisticstudy focuses on the changing contemporary relationships of languages. French is today challenged byArabic, the language of the state religion, English which dominates the international scientific fields andthe national labour market, and Afar and Somali, national languages which are increasingly used inevery situation. The increasing economic interdependence between Djibouti and Ethiopia has alsoallowed the emergence of regional languages such as Amharic and Oromo.This study reveals and analyses the areas of domination and conflict between those seven widely spokenlanguages in Djibouti. Focused on the field of sociolinguistics and particularly on the macro-subfield(or sociology of language), it explores the notions of bilingualism, multilingualism, diglossia and theirrelated phenomena. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods through questionnaires andinterviews establishes the frequency of languages usage in the linguistic landscape, the positions of each language in relation to the others.The research determines whether attitudes towards French in Djibouti have changed and investigates if colonial habits have disappeared as new generations experience things differently due to economic and technological changes.In addition, the study examines whether French and English are perceived equally as foreign languages and whether the switch from one to another could happen. It demonstrates that the high demand for English in the global market has huge implications for French, the former colonial and today official and educational language.This study provides an opportunity to find out what is happening to French in Djibouti. It could also inform the process of regulating languages in Djibouti by providing the first basis for a language policy and a language planning, as well as for status and corpus planning.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorEmmanuelle Labeau (Supervisor) & Pierre Larrivee (Supervisor)


  • French Future in Djibouti.
  • English and French Inward Competitions.
  • Multilingualism and Diglossia Language Policy and Status.
  • Arabic progress in Higher Education.

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