Save the Deaf and Endangered Languages Initiative (S-DELI)


A 2-Day international virtual conference on indigenous African signed and spoken languages

in collaboration with

University of New Mexico
Africana Studies

National Institute for
Nigerian Languages

Nigerian Languages Project

Educational Sign Language Interpreters
Association of Nigeria

DATE: January 7 – 8, 2021

TIME: 12 PM – 6 PM Daily (WAT)

Keynote Speakers

Professor Imelda Udoh

KEYNOTE AREA: Indigenous African Spoken Languages

Imelda Udoh is a Professor and a member of staff of the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, University of Uyo since 1986, where she has served as the Head of Department from 1993 – 1995, 2000 – 2001, 2004 – 2007, 2010 – 2013; Vice Dean, Faculty of Arts 2010-2012; Member of the UNIUYO International Program’s Committee 2011 to date, Deputy Director, School of Continuing Education from 2015 – 2016. She has also served as External Examiner and Assessor in many Nigerian and oversea Universities.  Prof. Udoh has been a Research Visitor to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 1996, a Research Scholar to the University College, London in 1999, a Post-Doctoral Visiting Scholar on sabbatical to the University of California, Berkeley, from 2001-2002, Professor on sabbatical to University of Calabar, from 2008-2009, 2016 – 2017. She has done extensive research in Descriptive and Documentary Linguistics on the languages of the Upper and Lower Cross River spoken in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States of Nigeria, through several projects like: the Electronic Metastructure for Endangered Language Data (E-MELD) housed in Michigan State University. The languages she has worked on include Leggbó, Anaañ, Iko, Nkari, Ibibio, Uda; and her work on these languages has yielded over sixty publications including articles in journals (in Nigeria, Europe, Asia, and America). She has a passion for the minority languages of Nigeria, especially Leggbó, and other Upper Cross languages of the Cross-River State.  She was a member of the Governing Council of the University of Uyo, where she represented the Senate of the University from 2015 – 2017. Professor Udoh is also a pioneering member of the Governing Council of the Ritman University, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, from 2015 to date.

Professor Victoria Nyst

KEYNOTE AREA: Indigenous African Signed Languages

Victoria Nyst is an associate professor working at the Leiden University Center for Linguistics in the Netherlands. Her research focuses on sign languages and gestures of deaf and hearing people in Africa. Her work in sign language documentation and description led to the publication of four video corpora of sign languages. Currently, she is working on projects on language socialization in families with Deaf parents (Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Mali), on the grammaticalization of size and shape gestures in emerging and established sign languages (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and the US), and on sign language corpus linguistics.

Lead Presenters

Dr. Chika Ezeanya Esiobu

Dr. Chika Ezeanya Esiobu‘s intellectual work is centrally located within the conviction that the acknowledgement of the significance of Africa’s indigenous knowledge – in all fields of human endeavor – is key to the continent’s advancement. Chika has been invited to present her ideas across cultures, countries, institutions and platforms, including the London School of Economics, Pan-African Parliament, United Nations Development Program, African Union, Social Science Research Council, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, United Nations Public Service Awards Ceremony, Standard Bank South Africa, to mention few. She has worked as a consultant for the World Bank, the International Development Research Center (IDRC) Canada, the United Nations, the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC).
Chika holds a Ph.D. in African Development and Policy Studies from Howard University in Washington D.C. She is the author of Education and Indigenous Knowledge in Africa (Springer: 2019) in addition to other publications. Chika is senior lecturer (honorary) with the University of Rwanda, College of Business and Economics and the founder of African Child Press and the African Center for Education Research and Transformation. In 2019, Chika was recognized as an influential person of African descent under 40.

Marco Stanley Nyarko

Marco Stanley Nyarko is a pioneering deaf educator, sign language linguistic and researcher, who has served the national and international Deaf Community with excellence for 13 years. Marco holds a Bachelor’s degree in special education, from University of Education-Winneba. His portfolio includes implementation of deaf education projects at Lancaster University and University of Central Lancashire, sign language research with University of Leiden and University of Ghana, and participation in deafness and development forums with his peers in Ivory Coast and Swaziland.
In recognition of outstanding achievement, U.S. Embassy in Accra awarded Marco the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, known as YALI. As a YALI Fellow, Marco pursued academic coursework and leadership trainings in Washington, D.C. and at the University of Texas in Austin.
Marco currently teaches and mentors Deaf students at the Senior Technical High School School for the Deaf, and a part-time lecturer (Ghanaian Sign Language) at the university of Ghana, Legon. Marco is also serving as a research assistant for a joint research project, Language Socialization with Deaf Families in African, investigated by Dr. Victoria Nyst. It is in this light that Marco want to broaden his skills by working on the sign language documentation which will serve as a reference for many research work


Africa contributes profoundly rich linguistic and cultural heritages to the world’s linguistic diversity, yet many of indigenous African languages are grossly understudied and underdeveloped, while the foreign languages, the lasting symbols of colonialism continue to gain strength and space in African linguistic communities. Many African signed languages are among the earliest discovered and defined signed language systems, yet indigenous African signed languages are among the least studied and least developed in the world. As the United Nations/UNESCO declared the International Decade of indigenous Languages in 2020, it becomes expedient to accelerate the study of indigenous African languages and to give them equal growth opportunities in the global space.

This virtual conference, “Indigenous Hands and Voices of African Identity: Discourse on Language Rights” is a step in the right direction as it seeks to bring together sound African and non-African scholars in the field of indigenous African languages (both signed and spoken) to discuss their works and contribute knowledge towards the growth and development of indigenous African languages.

Call for Papers

We are inviting contributions from African and non-African Deaf and hearing Scholars, sign language interpreters, and language activists, working on any of the indigenous signed or spoken languages of Africa. Papers may be conceptual or empirical and should address the theme from various areas or study, but not limited to the following areas of focus:

  • Child language acquisition in African languages (signed and spoken)
  • Interpreting and translation in African languages
  • Indigenous languages in Literacy in Africa
  • Indigenous languages in Education in Africa
  • Indigenous languages in politics in Africa
  • Indigenous languages in religious discourse in Africa
  • Phonology/Morphology/Syntax of African languages
  • Linguistic landscape in Africa


  • Submission of 300-word abstracts: 31st October 2020
  • Feedback to contributors: 1st December 2020
  • Registration: 1st January 2021


  1. Prof. Enoabasi Urua for abstracts on spoken languages
  2. Mary Edward Agronah for abstracts on signed languages

Registration Fee

  • Presenters from Nigeria – N10,000
  • Presenters from foreign and other African countries – $25
  • Free for all non-presenters


Well researched and peer reviewed papers will be published on open access online portal. Details of publication will be communicated to those whose presentations were selected after the conference.

Signed language interpreting will be made available in conventional signed language generally used in Nigeria.