Executive Summary



The ELLAF project


The Encyclopedia of Literatures in African Languages (ELLAF) is an ANR project which is based on research undertaken since 2000 at LLACAN (UMR 8135 of CNRS) and INALCO under the direction of Ursula Baumgardt. This research made it possible to outline a new literary field, that of oral and written literatures in African languages.

The project is conducted by the Publication Directors, the Scientific Committee and the Digital Management.

Project Design

In 2009, a group of specialists in African studies, in linguistics and in literature, from INALCO, Paris 3 University and the University of Tours provided a multidisciplinary perspective to develop digital support for teaching and research in African languages and literatures in African languages. The group included: Odile Racine, Ursula Baumgardt, Aliou Mohamadou, Narivelo Rajaonarimanana, Delombera Negga, Xavier Garnier, Sûû-Tôôg-Nooma K. Kaboré and Sylvester Osu. Given the complexity of the problem, the project was constricted on literatures in African languages.

ELLAF was defined and structured in its current form between 2009 and 2011 by the following INALCO professors: Ursula Baumgardt, Aliou Mohamadou and Narivelo Rajaonarimanana. Jean Derive, Professor Emeritus, joined this group and made his contribution to the development of the project as did Xavier Garnier of Paris 3 University. Marie Lorin was solicited for the digital aspects of the project.


Literatures in African languages are little or poorly known, whereas they are rich and diversified, combining oral literatures and literatures written in several scripts. Beyond the intrinsic interest in themselves and the need to catalogue the existing literatures, they raise important questions on literary analysis and theory that focus primarily on the relations between oral literature and literary writing.

The aim of the project is to create a theoretical framework for this emerging disciplinary field and to make a new contribution to the understanding literature and language practices.

ELLAF seeks to create a website: a framework for theoretical reflection and an online digital library that brings together corpora of oral and written literatures in African languages, whatever their sociolinguistic status.

Right from the beginning, eleven languages and literatures characterized by different localizations and statuses are present on the site. These languages are: Boomu, Bulu, Capverdian, Gbaya, Igbo, Malagasy, Mandingo, Fula, Wolof, Swahili and Zarma. The site aims to integrate other languages and literatures.

Literary texts in the form of excerpts or in full version, accompanied by a translation into French and/or English, are presented according to a common protocol: the texts are contextualized, the circumstances of their creation and/or performance are specified and the literary genre to which they belong is indicated. Above all, the site presents the language and literature relevant to the texts included on the website and defines the current theoretical concepts in the field. The encyclopedia intends to deepen this analysis by developing an online journal.


As an ANR project, ELLAF is presented by two researchers, Ursula Baumgardt and Xavier Garnier.

Ursula Baumgardt is the coordinator of the project. She is a professor at INALCO and was a member of LLACAN until January 2017, date on which she joined the INALCO team, PLIDAM (Plurality of Languages and Identities: Didactics, Acquisition, Mediation). Initially backed by LLACAN, since the project coordinator belonged to this unit, but following the affiliation of Ursula Baumgardt to PLIDAM, ELLAf is no longer linked to LLACAN. It reports to PLIDAM.

Xavier Garnier, a professor in Paris 3 and member of THALIM (Theory and History of Arts and Literatures of Modernity, UMR 7172 CNRS) is a partner of the project.

ELLAF is scientifically based on the contribution of Africanist researchers from several disciplines, all specialists in these languages and/or literatures. Several academics from the South are collaborating in the project which aims to increase international cooperation.

Translated by Yohannes Beyene