Reflections on a community-based approach to writing grammars of endangered African languages

Pius Wuchu Akumbu

Abstract


Increasingly, there have been proposals for grammar writers to take into account the
realities and needs of the community in order to produce grammars that can serve the
interests of the native speakers (e.g. Kadanya 2006, Rehg 2014). Obviously, a grammar
of an endangered language should, among other things, lead to the maintenance and/or
revitalization of the language. However, grammars that are comprehensive and clear
(Noonan 2007, Payne 2014, Rice 2006), and yet focus on and meet the needs of the target
community, are still rare. This paper provides a reflection, from a community linguist’s
perspective, on how a community-based grammar could be conceived and written in the
African context. It is based on an exploration of grammars written by native and non-native
speakers, as well as on the feedback from native speakers. The paper points out
some practical challenges involved (e.g. with data collection, and actual use of the grammars),
and upholds that a grammar that is based on community mobilization, sensitization,
and training requires a greater involvement and follow-up by the grammar writer,
especially after publication.


Keywords


Grammars; Endangered Languages; Community-Based; Reflections

Full Text:

PDF

References


Akumbu, P. W. 2018. Babanki literacy classes and community-based language research. In Bischoff, S. T. & C. Jany (eds.), Insights from practices in community-based research: From theory to practice around the globe, 266-279. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Akumbu, P. W. & E. F. Chibaka. 2012. A pedagogic grammar of Babanki - a Grassfields language of Northwest Cameroon. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

Ameka, F. K. 2006. Real descriptions: Reflections on native speaker and non-native speaker descriptions of a language. In Ameka, F. K., A. Dench & N. Evans (eds.). Catching grammar: The standing challenge of grammar writing, 69-112. Berlin/New York: Mou-ton de Gruyter.

Asohsi, M. 2015. Structural and typological approaches to Obang grammar. A Grassfields Bantu language of Cameroon. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe.

Atindogbe, G. G. 2013. A grammatical sketch of Mòkpè (Bakweri). African Study Mono-graphs, Supplement 45. 5-163.

Bird, S. 1999. When marking tone reduces fluency: an orthography experiment in Cameroon. Language and Speech 42. 83-115.

Bischoff, S. T. & C. Jany (eds.). 2018. Insights from practices in community-based research: From theory to practice around the globe, 266-279. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Black, C. A. & A. H. Black. 2012. Grammars for the people, by the people, made easier using PAWS and XLingPaper. Language Documentation & Conservation Special Publication No. 4: 103-108.

Bouba, A. (1995). Quelles langues nationales dans les écoles ? Cameron Tribune, Issue of June 20 1995, Yaoundé: SOPECAM

Boutwell, R. L. 2014. A sketch grammar of the Mungong language. Yaounde: SIL.

Boutwell, R. L. 2010. A sketch grammar of the Nchane language. Yaounde: SIL.

Cameron, D., E. Frazer, P. Harvey, M. B. H. Rampton & K. Richardson. 1992. Researching language: Issues of power and method. New York: Routledge.

Chuo, G. K. & S. Walter. 2011. The Kom experimental mother tongue education project report for 2011.

Community-Based Research Canada. What is community-based research? http://communityresearchcanada.ca/cbr (accessed 20 February 2019).

Crane, T. M., L. M. Hyman & S. J. Nsielanga 2011. A Grammar of Nzadi [B.865]: A Bantu language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Czaykowska-Higgins, E. 2009. Research models, community engagement, and linguistic fieldwork: Reflections on working within Canadian indigenous communities. Language Documentation & Conservation 3(1). 15–50.

Dobrin, L. 2008. From linguistic elicitation to eliciting the linguist: Lessons in community empowerment from Melanesia. Language 84(2). 300–324.

Dobrin, L. & J. Good. 2009. Practical language development: Whose mission? Language 85(3). 619–629.

Dobrin, L. & J. Berson. 2011. Speakers and language documentation. In Austin, P. K. & J. Sallabank (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 187–211.

Eberhard, D. M., G. F. Simons, & C. D. Fennig (eds.). 2019. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Twenty-second edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com.

Fitzgerald, C. M. 2017. Understanding language vitality and reclamation as resilience: A framework for language endangerment and “loss” (Commentary on Mufwene). Lan-guage.e280–e297. (https://www.linguisticsociety.org/sites/default/files/e8_93.4Fitzgerald.pdf)

Fitzgerald, C. M. 2018. Creating sustainable models of language documentation and revitali-zation. In Bischoff, S. T. & C. Jany (eds.), Insights from practices in community-based research: From theory to practice around the globe, pp 94-111. Berlin/Boston: Mouton de Gruyter.

Genetti, C. & R. Siemens. 2013. Training as empowering social action: An ethical response to language endangerment. In Mihas, E., B. Perley, G. Rei-Doval & K. Wheatley (eds.), Responses to language endangerment. In honor of Mickey Noonan. New directions in language documentation and language revitalization, 59–77. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Grenoble, L. A. and S. S. Whitecloud. 2014. Conflicting goals, ideologies and beliefs in the field. In Austin, P. K. & J. Sallabank (eds.), Beliefs and ideologies in language endan-germent, documentation, and revitalization. Proceedings of the British Academy 199, 339–356. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Grenoble, L. A. and L. J. Whaley. 2005. Review of language endangerment and language maintenance, and language death and language maintenance. Language 81. 965–974.

Guérin, V. 2008. Writing an endangered language. Language Documentation & Conservation 2(1): 47-67. http://hdl.handle.net/10125/1804.

Handman, C. 2009. Language ideology and Christianization. Language 85(3). 635–639.

Hedinger, R. 2008. A grammar of Akoose: A northwest Bantu language. Dallas: SIL Interna-tional and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Kadanya, J. L. 2006. Writing grammars for the community. Studies in Language 30(2). 253-257.

Kafeteh, Z. 2018. Assessing mother tongue literacy in the Kom language. MA thesis, The University of Bamenda.

Keane, W. 2002. Sincerity, ‘modernity,’ and the Protestants. Cultural Anthropology 17. 65–92.

Koops, R. 2009. A grammar of Kuteb: A Jukunoid language of East-Central Nigeria. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

Leonard, W. Y. & E. Haynes. 2010. Making ‘collaboration’ collaborative. An examination of perspectives that frame field research. Language Documentation and Conservation. 4. 268–293.

Lovegren, J. 2013. Mungbam grammar. PhD dissertation, University at Buffalo.

Lüpke, F. 2011. Orthography development. In Austin, P. K. & J. Sallabank (eds.), The Cam-bridge handbook of endangered languages, 312–336. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McLean, G. L. 2014. A sketch grammar of the central Mfumte language. Yaounde: SIL In-ternational.

Mithun, M. 2006. Grammars and the community. Studies in Language 30(2). 281-306.

Mono Ndjana, H. 1981. Paradoxes, essai sur les contradictions du sens commun. Editions Objectif, Université de Yaoundé.

Mosel, U. 2006. Grammaticography: The art and craft of writing grammar. In Ameka, F. K., A. Dench & N. Evans (eds.). Catching grammar: The standing challenge of grammar writing, 41-68. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Nforbi, E. & P. Ngum. 2009. Oku grammar. Dschang: Dschang University Press.

Nguendjio, E. G. 2014. A descriptive grammar of Bangwa. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

Noonan, M. 2007. Grammar writing for a grammar-reading audience. In Thomas, P. E. & W. J. David (eds.), Perspectives on grammar writing, 113-126. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Noonan, M. n.d. Describe everything! or description is not the same as standardization. https://pantherfile.uwm.edu.noonan/www/Describe%20Everything% 21.pdf (5 November, 2009).

Ochocka, J. & R. Janzen. (2014). Breathing life into theory: Illustrations of community-based research hallmarks, functions, and phases. Gateways: International Journal of Communi-ty Research and Engagement. 7. 18-33.

Payne, T. E. 2014. Towards a balanced grammatical description. In T. Nakayama & K. Rice (eds.), The Art and Practice of Grammar Writing. Language Documentation & Conser-vation Special Publication No. 8. 91-108.

Pennycook, A. & S. Makoni. 2005. The modern mission: The language effects of

Christianity. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education 4. 137–55.

Rehg, K. L. 2004. Linguists, literacy, and the law of unintended consequences. Oceanic Lin-guistics 43(2). 498-518.

Rehg, K. L. 2014. On the role and utility of grammars in language documentation and con-servation. In T. Nakayama & K. Rice (eds.), The Art and Practice of Grammar Writing. Language Documentation & Conservation Special Publication No. 8. 53-68.

Rice, K. 2018. Collaborative research: Visions and realities. In Bischoff, S. T. & C. Jany (eds.), Insights from practices in community-based research: From theory to practice around the globe, 13-37. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Rice, K. 2012. Ethical issues in linguistic fieldwork. The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Fieldwork, 407-429. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rice, K. 2006. A typology of good grammars. Studies in Language 30(2). 385-415.

Snider, K. 2014. Orthography and phonological depth. In Mike Cahill and Keren Rice (eds.). Developing orthographies for unwritten languages, 27-48. Dallas: SIL International.

Stenzel, K. 2014. The pleasures and pitfalls of a ‘participatory’ documentation project: An experience in northwestern Amazonia. Language Documentation & Conservation 8. 287–306. (http://hdl.handle.net/10125/24608)

Tamanji, P. N. 2009. A descriptive grammar of Bafut. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

The Economist. 2019. The perils of learning in English. https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/02/23/the-perils-of-learning-in-english. Ac-cessed on March 20, 2019.

UNESCO. 2010. Educational for all: Global monitoring report. Paris: UNESCO.

Viljoen, M. H. 2013. A grammatical description of the Buwal language. PhD dissertation, La Trobe University.

Voll, R. 2017. A grammar of Mundabli, A Bantoid (Yemne-Kimbi) language of Cameroon. PhD Dissertation, University of Leiden.




EDITORIAL OFFICE Department of African Languages and Cultures, University of Warsaw, Faculty of Oriental Studies, ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28, 00-927 Warszawa, Poland, +48225520517

PUBLISHER University of Warsaw Press, ul. Prosta 69, 4th floor, 00-838 Warszawa, Poland, wuw@uw.edu.pl