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

Pius Wuchu Akumbu


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.


Grammars; Endangered Languages; Community-Based; Reflections

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