Nilo-Saharan specialists gather in Germany for NSLC 2013

(June 2013) The 2013 Nilo-Saharan Linguistics Colloquium (NSLC) was hosted by the University of Cologne 22-24 May. A number of SIL linguists presented papers, including two who gave plenary talks.

The Nilo-Saharan language family includes 205 languages spoken across a wide swath of the African continent. At this year’s NSLC event, sessions were arranged to focus on individual languages or sub-groupings within the language family including Nilotic, Nubian and Surmic languages. One highlight of the conference was a panel discussion on Nubian languages, with many mother tongue speakers of Nubian languages from Nigeria and Sudan participating. Due to travel difficulties encountered by some of the invited participants, event organizers have arranged for this panel to reconvene in Khartoum in September.

Leoma Gilley, SIL Training Director for Africa, provided one of the five plenary addresses. Gilley’s talk, entitled “Expectations: Realization and Disillusionment,” focused on the ethics of appropriately sharing research data with language communities so that members of the community can make use of the data for their own purposes. Gilley provided examples from situations in which processes for effective sharing are in place. She also suggested numerous practical ways in which this sharing can be done without jeopardizing the right of first-authorship. Another plenary address was given by Doris Payne, a senior linguistics consultant for SIL International. Payne’s talk was entitled “Why can’t we agree on ‘The Maa verb’? Perspectives on the Nilotic verb composition.”

Additional presentations by SIL researchers included:

Adelino Amargira’s presentation on Tennet was based on his insights as both a linguist and a mother-tongue speaker of the language. Another SIL participant, linguistics student Phodunze Martin, is a mother-tongue speaker of the Baka language. In addition to his language research, Martin is also involved in efforts to bring multilingual education opportunities to students in his community.

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