Chair of Romance Languages and Cultures
Romance Languages in Africa

Romance Languages in Africa

The project Romance Language in Africa (RoLA) is aimed at developing a comprehensive panorama of the Romance languages throughout the African continent. 40 African countries are characterized by a French, Belgian, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish past that is perceptible today in a sometimes more, sometimes less direct way. Each project partner analyses a specific African area according to a uniform set of criteria and a uniform structure. The scholars lay out the sociolinguistic situation in one or more countries, sketch the linguistic history of the Romance languages concerned, the linguistic characteristics of their local usage, as well as the internal and external language policies applied. The project thus results in the first comprehensive description of the Romance languages in Africa following a coherent and systematic approach, thus allowing to identify differences and similarities between the specific situations.

Areas of Examination

The project analyses 40 countries: eight in Northern Africa, eleven in Western Africa, nine in Central Africa and twelve in Eastern Africa.

Northern Africa


  • Morocco
  • Algeria
  • Tunisia


  •  Libya


  • Portugal (Madeira)


  • Spain (Canary Islands)
  • Spain (Ceuta and Melilla)
  • Western Sahara

Western Africa


  • Mauritania
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Senegal
  • Guinea
  • Ivory Coast
  • Burkina Faso
  • Togo
  • Benin


  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Cape Verde

Central Africa


  • Chad
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Gabon
  • Republic of the Congo
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo


  • Angola
  • São Tomé and Príncipe


  • Equatorial Guinea

Eastern Africa


  • Djibouti
  • Rwanda
  • Burundi
  • Madagascar and Comoros
  • Mauritius and Seychelles
  • France (Réunion and Mayotte)


  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Somalia


  • Mozambique


Each area is systematically examined with regard to the following aspects:

Sociolinguistic Situation

  • Geographical Distribution of Languages
  • Social Distribution of Languages

Linguistic History

  • Establishment of French/Italian/Portuguese/Spanish
  • Milestones of its Development

External Language Policy

  • Legislation
  • Languages used by Public Authorities
  • Languages used in Education
  • Languages used in the Media

Linguistic Characteristics (main option)

  • Pronunciation
  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary

Linguistic Characteristics (option 2 – potentially for Italian)

  • Traces of African languages in Italian
  • Traces of Italian in African languages

Internal Language Policy

  • Linguistic Purism
  • Description of Linguistic Characteristics
  • Usage of Linguistic Characteristics


Three aspects set the project apart from earlier descriptions of the Romance languages in Africa:

  • Complete panorama of the Romance languages in Africa
  • Coherent perspective, achieved by focusing on multilingualism
  • Coherent structure thanks to uniform criteria of analysis

Three aspects distinguish the project Romance Languages in Africa (RoLA) from the project Typologies of Francophonies (ToF):

  • RoLA deals with all African countries with French history, whereas ToF only presents a small selection.
  • RoLA goes beyond the French-speaking world and also examines all African countries with Spanish, Portuguese and Italian history.
  • RoLA uses English as a lingua franca bridging the different Romance languages.


Working Language

  • English

Analysed Languages

  • French
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
  • Creoles

Project Partners

The project is coordinated by the Chair of Romance Languages and Cultures at the University of Passau and carried out in cooperation with 40 academics working in 16 different countries at the subsequent universities and research institutes.


  • Université d'Abomey Calavi


  • Université du Burundi


  • Cape Breton University
  • Université de Sherbrooke


  • Macao Polytechnic Institute


  • Centre national de la recherche scientifique
  • Université Rennes II
  • Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3


  • Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
  • Universität Koblenz-Landau
  • Universität Passau (Project Coordination)


  • Università degli Studi di Torino

Ivory Coast

  • Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny


  • Universidade Eduardo Mondlane


  • Université Abdou Moumouni


  • Høgskolen i Innlandet - Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
  • Universitetet i Oslo - University of Oslo 


  • Universidade de Lisboa

Republic of the Congo

  • Université Marien Ngouabi


  • Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar


  • Universidad de Cádiz
  • Universidad de La Laguna


  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University at Albany


Here you can find publications regarding our projects.