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African Languages & Literatures Library Guide: Home

Welcome to African Languages & Literatures subject guide


The main shelf numbers for South African Languages and Literatures

Some important Open Access scholarly books of African interest

South African Languages & Literatures Guide

Where are your Books?

The African Literature books (Poetry and Novels) are located on Level 3 of the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library, down a spiral staircase near the Information Desk. They begin with the shelf numbers 896. These books may be borrowed.

The African Language books (Linguistics, Teaching and Learning) are located on level 5, at the North end of the Library. They begin with shelf number 496. These books may be borrowed.

Our books are given shelf numbers according to the Dewey Decimal System - these shelf numbers keep related books together by subject. You can follow the numbers like a street address to find a family of related books all together on the shelf. At the end of each shelf number there are a few letters, for example, 896.398532 NGEW.  These are the first letters of the author's name, and keep books by that author together on the shelf.

There is a list of the main shelf numbers for African languages and Literatures in the left-hand column.

Some copies - typically rare, irreplaceable or fragile works, or copies that are being kept as a legacy for future generations - are kept in the African Studies collection in the Special Collections wing. Their shelf numbers begin with the letters BA. These books may be read in the Special Collections Reading Room, but may not be borrowed. 

Important note about electronic vs. print books: while the library still maintains strong print collections, it is important to note that many of our newest books are available only in electronic rather than print versions. This is especially so in the Social Sciences but can also be true of some critical or highly-used works in the Arts and Literature subjects.

It is therefore essential to use the library catalogue, Primo, which has hotlinks to the electronic books, since browsing the physical collection alone will cause you to miss the up-to-date, new material added to the Library holdings over the last few years.

African Language and Literature Journals

Journals are published every few weeks or months. They are academic magazines that contain articles on different topics. Journals are important for finding very up-to-date information, or very specific information on narrow topics. The great thing about journals nowadays is that so many of them are available electronically as well as in print, although that is not always the case in this field.

Printed Journals

The latest unbound journals are kept on level 5. The bound copies since 1965 are located in the basement. Pre-1965 journals are kept in an off-campus store and can be requested from the Loans Desk.

Electronic Journals

Many of our journals can also be found full text in electronic format on our databases. These databases contain thousands of journals, all searchable by keywords, like chunk of Google.

Most of the journals are full text nowadays. In some cases, though, the databases may just give a reference to the journal article, rather than the whole thing. This will tell you which year and volume and pages of a particular print journal to look at to find the article.

You can get to our databases from and mousing over Search & Find and selecting Databases.

Databases for your subject

The main database of specific interest to African Languages and Literatures is Africa-Wide Information- via EBSCOhost.

The main database for language and literature in general is MLA International Bibliography - via EBSCOhost

 These are some other very popular databases which might interest you:

· Academic Search Premier - via EBSCOhost (Full Text)

· Academic OneFile

·Sabinet African Journals 

· Humanities International Complete - via EBSCOhost

· Arts & Humanities Citation Index (A&HCI) on Web of Science


African Language and Literatures Journals

 Although many of our journals are electronic nowadays, you may still find yourself needing a printed journal.

These are some of our print journals in African Languages and Literatures.

  1. NAWA : journal of language and communication. -- Windhoek, Namibia : Dept. of Communication, Polytechnic of Namibia, 2007     BA 302.205 NAW
  2. African writing. -- Oxford : Fonthouse, [2007]- BA 820.5 AFR
  3. Kwani? -- Nairobi : Kwani Trust, 2003- BA 809.8805 KWA
  4. LEAP news : newsletter of the Language in Education in Africa Project. -- Rondebosch, South Africa : PRAESA, 2003- BA 306.44605 LEA
  5. Chimurenga. -- [Cape Town] : Pan African Market, [2002- BA 820.5 CHI
  6. Journal of African cultural studies. -- [Abingdon, Oxfordshire] : Carfax, 1998-. BA 496.05 AFR
  7. Matatu : journal for African culture and society -- Gottingen : Matatu, 1987- BA 820.5 MAT      
  8. Suid-Afrikaanse tydskrif vir Afrikatale : tydskrif van die Afrikatale-Vereniging van Suider-Afrika (AVSA) = South African journal of African languages : journal of the African Language Association of Southern Africa (ALASA). -- Pretoria : AVSA, {1981-  BA 496.05 SOU
  9. English in Africa. -- Grahamstown, South Africa : Institute for the Study of English in Africa, Rhodes University  BA 820.5 ENG