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(August 2008) "Multilingualism: challenges and opportunities" is the theme of the 2008 AILA Conference (Association Internationale de Linguistique Appliquée) to be held in Essen, Germany. At this 15th World Congress of Applied Linguistics, SIL linguists will conduct a symposium entitled, Tools for developing Bantu languages: Phonology, orthography and discourse.
During the symposium, the Bantu Department of SIL Africa Area will demonstrate computer software tools they have developed which are used in the analysis of Bantu languages. From the equator to South Africa, about 200 million Africans speak one of 500 languages belonging to the Bantu subgroup of Niger-Congo languages. Of these, approximately 14 million individuals speak one of 250 languages without a writing system. In order to facilitate language development, SIL Africa Area has designed and implemented three tools which take advantage of their linguistic similarities.
SIL is part of the Bantu Initiative, a network of organizations whose goal is to better record Bantu language data to preserve endangered languages and to facilitate language development. The SIL representatives making presentations at the symposium are: Kent Schroeder (phonology tool), Leila Schroeder (orthography tool) and Carl Follingstad, PhD (discourse tool).
Below is an abstract of their symposium:
The phonology tool assists the linguist in the phonological analysis of a given Bantu language with a focus on discovering the segmental phonology of a language. The orthography manual is a resource for developing writing systems. The discourse tool assists the linguist in the discourse analysis of a given language. Used together these tools will facilitate the applied linguistics work in previously unwritten Bantu languages.