Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Bakola documentation project

The aim of this project is the linguistic documentation of Bakola, a Narrow Bantu language.

2009 - 2012
Maarten Mous
Volkswagen DoBeS (Dokumentation bedrohter Sprachen)
  • Prof.dr. Raimund Kastenholz
  • Emmanuel Ngue Um
  • Daniel Duke
  • Nadine Borchardt
  • Christopher Lorentz

Bakola is a Narrow Bantu language, spoken by approximately 2000 to 5000 people. The speakers of Bakola are forest foragers who have lived in symbiosis with sedentary Bantu-speaking communities over a long period of time. The language is highly endangered, only used for in-group communication and not spoken when outsiders are present. This project aims to document the Bakola language, focusing on three major domains: audio recordings, video recordings, and the elicitation of specialized vocabulary.  These data sources will be brought together in the form of a ‘multimedia dictionary’. Additionally, the project will seek to gain the Bakola’s cooperation and involvement by bringing the various communities into contact with each other.

Renaud (1976) reported two dialects for the language: "Bajele" which was closely associated with Kwasio, and "Bakola" which was closely associated with Bassa (A40). As the Bakola have become more sedentary and have entered into close relationships with other farming communities, the dialectal situation has become more complex. The Bakola language is fragmenting as different communities of Bakola speakers borrow extensively from different neighboring languages. Bakola is a highly endangered language. The language is used strictly for in-group communication and not spoken in public when outsiders are present. Their negative attitude toward their own language is reinforced by their marginal status among all the ethnic groups of the region, their poverty, and their decreasing ability to continue their traditional lifestyle due to deforestation. The linguistic documentation of Bakola will focus on three major domains:

  • audio recordings (narrative, procedural, hortative, expository, conversations, epics, songs, folktales, proverbs, etc.)
  • video recordings (dances, storytelling events, songs, procedural discourse, and basic conversational situations such as greetings, daily activities, food gathering, etc.)
  • the elicitation of specialized vocabulary (plant and animal names, herbalist and hunting techniques as well as stories, music and rituals to build relationships among humans and with the spiritual world)

All of these data sources will be brought together in the form of a "multimedia dictionary." Individual words will be linked to recordings, videos, and annotated texts, as well as notes about the culture. 

Furthermore, the project will seek to gain the Bakola's cooperation and involvement by creating a network of Bakola camps who share stories, songs, and videos among themselves. This process of sharing will bring the various Bakola communities into contact with each other, and open up a kind of dialog among them. As a general outcome, the project aims at providing:

  • Multimedia dictionary
  • Sketch grammar
  • Texts and lexical information collected and archived
  • Materials for the Bakola community
  • Training in fieldwork and recording techniques for Bakola community members and student interns
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