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Grant number like: FN-50005-06

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Jeffrey C. Good
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig 14222-1004 Germany)

Dynamic Language Infrastructure-Documenting Endangered Languages - Fellowships
Research Programs

$24,000 (approved)
$24,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2007 – 8/31/2008

Documentation and Preservation of Western Beboid Languages of Cameroon

This project, a collaborative venture by Jeff Good and Scott Farrar, will result in (1) the creation of primary documentary resources of the languages in the form of audio and video recordings and transcriptions; (2) the creation of descriptive materials on the languages in the form of annotated recordings and information on their grammar; (3) the construction of a comparative database based on the collected data; and (4) recommendations for tool design for field linguistics, with a specific focus on tools allowing for structured annotation of grammatical data containing links to linguistic ontologies. Current documentation of the Western Beboid languages is limited to word lists and sketches of noun class systems, and the number of speakers is quite small, ranging from, perhaps a high of 1600 for Fang to a low of 600 for Mbu'. Their small speaker populations and the increasing use of Cameroonian Pidgin in the Western Beboid area puts them at risk for extinction within the span of a few generations. These languages offer crucial links between Bantu languages and the rest of the Benue-Congo language group, the sub-branch of Niger-Congo to which the Bantu languages belong. From the perspective of linguistics and prehistory, the languages occupy what is believed to be the Bantu homeland. They can offer valuable insights regarding the nature of the Bantu expansions; and the comparative database will open the languages to research by linguists and specialists from other disciplines. (Edited by staff)