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(June 2008) The network of organizations known as The Bantu Initiative is holding a seminar on documentary linguistics 9–13 June in Ruiru, Kenya. The goal is to better record and preserve data on languages in the Bantu zone.
The twenty-two participants represent eight countries (Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Chad, Congo, Cameroon and Kenya) where Bantu languages are spoken. They work in the fields of linguistics, administration and language survey.
Documentary linguistics focuses on making an archival record of the language in use (primary data), while descriptive linguistics focuses on describing how a language works (secondary data). This is the first seminar held on the topic by SIL in East Africa. Staff for the two-week seminar are SIL consultants: Gary Simons, PhD; Will Reiman; and Paul Lewis, PhD.
By the conclusion of the seminar, the participants will have begun to form a consensus on:
The curriculum for the seminar is the Basics of Oral Language Documentation course package. The course includes twenty-two self-paced learning modules with accompanying readings, practice exercises and job aids. It is being developed for a four-week intensive course to be held at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL), Dallas, Texas, USA, in January 2009.
The Bantu language family
There are more than 500 Bantu languages, located from Cameroon in western Africa to Kenya in the east, and south into South Africa. Capitalizing on similarities in the grammatical structure of these languages, the Bantu Initiative is an on-going cooperative project between four organizations, including SIL. SIL participates in the Bantu Initiative through its Africa Area Bantu Department.