In recognition of the close of the IYIL – and of the coming decade of indigenous languages – we have dedicated this issue of NJAS entirely to language-themed papers. In this volume, Onyumbe & Koni Muluwa take a historical approach to the phonology of Cíbìnjì cyà Ngúsú, a Bantu language of DRC, highlighting some of the less common Bantu sound changes observed in this language. Sonkoue Kamdem presents new data on the previously undescribed tense-aspect system of Mengaka, a Grassfields language spoken in Cameroon, providing a beautiful illustration of the complexity inherent in even a “basic” description of the tense-aspect system of many African languages: Although Sonkoue Kamdem restricts her description to affirmative main clause contexts, and aims to describe chiefly the primary (temporal semantic) functions of the markers, the distinctions shown are numerous, with hints of even greater complexity if pragmatic functions are considered. Fongang presents new data and a morphosyntactic analysis of the na focus particle in Cameroon Pidgin English (also known as Kamtok and Cameroon Cre-ole English), drawing connections to similar phenomena in other pidgin and creole languages. Like Cameroon Pidgin English, African creoles and many contact varieties are well-developed, full-fledged languages with intricate grammatical systems, and they often have huge numbers of first- and second-language speakers (see e.g. Yapko 2016; Sande 2015). Therefore, they merit the same quality and scope of linguistic research as other indigenous languages, even if their so-called “lexifying” languages, from which much of the vocabulary is derived, did not originate on the African continent. Finally, Dione offers Lexical-Functional Grammar analyses of prominent linguistic features in Wolof, a Niger-Congo language that is spoken mostly in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania. Dione’s analysis is implemented through a digital grammar development platform (Xerox Linguistic Environment) and is carried out as part of ParGram, a comparative grammar project that aims “to produce deep, linguistically well-motivated, and maximally parallelized grammars for a variety of languages” (Dione, this volume, p. 3). UNESCO (2019) recognizes the importance of developing quality digital resources for indigenous languages in the 21st century, and computational approaches to grammatical description such as the one presented by Dione form an important part of this digitalization work.
As noted in the introduction to the first issue of NJAS in the International Year of Indigenous Languages (Crane & Schneidermann 2019), NJAS is active in promoting African languages this year, and always. We are grateful to our funders, our contributors, our many generous reviewers, and our readership for making this possible, and for allowing us to maintain our free, fully open-access model.
- Category: Academic publication
- Thematic area: Documentation
- Call topics: Science ethics and open content
- Major objective: Deliver capacities to take concrete actions and measures to support, access and promote indigenous languages
- Area of intervention: Creation of favourable conditions for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices with regard to indigenous languages