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Description, Typology, Fieldwork

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A descriptive grammar of the Swo language (Bantu A82, Cameroon)

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Scientific framework and objectives

The main goal of this PhD project (Doctoral school 3LA), that started in October 2019, is to write a first descriptive grammar of the Swo language, a Northern Bantu language spoken in Cameroon (Central Africa) by a self-sufficient forest community. The project is directed by Lolke van der Veen and Mark Van de Velde (Llacan, Paris). Swo is part of a language group called Makaa-Njem, a very heterogeneous group because of intensive contact in the area with Bantu as well as non-Bantu languages – Cameroon houses around 280 langues within its borders. The Swo grammar therefore will be placed within a typological framework. Swo is considered an endangered language, because less and less children learn it as their mother tongue (French is heavily privileged in school and professionally, to the great disadvantage of Swo).
First, questions related to phonology and phonetics will be treated: vocalic and consonantal systems, phonotactical structures (syllable types) and (lexical) tone. These analyses have already been started during the two fieldwork trips preceding this PhD project, and will be completed using the data to be collected in the upcoming years. Special attention will be given to the diachronic effects of lenition (from the end of the word to the left): this procedure has led to a more complex set of phonotactical rules (diphthongs and modulated tones). The morpho-syntax part will treat the noun phrase – noun classes, genres, agreement, the verb phrase – tense, mode, aspect and negation, nominal and verbal derivation, and simple and complex clauses (complex predicates, complement clauses).
The data will be collected in the field, partly through elicitation (for example to complete certain paradigms), partly using natural data like storytelling or conversations. If possible, some stories as well as traditional songs and dances will be recorded on video, to be used for documentation ends. In order to support the community in their language development, a non-scientific grammar will be created with the community, useful and comprehensible for the speakers of Swo.

  Financial support
  • Contrat doctoral Lyon 2 - ED 3LA
    A descriptive grammar of Swo, Bantu A82 (Cameroon)
    Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche
  • Financement de terrain
    Data collection fieldwork - Descriptive grammar of Swo

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