A sociolinguistic survey of the Grebo language area of Liberia

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Hasselbring, Sue and Eric Johnson
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SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2002-074
100 pages

This paper presents a sociolinguistic survey conducted in the Grebo language communities of Liberia. The survey was designed to provide the administrators of LIBTRALO (Liberia Bible Translation and Literacy Organization) with information about the Grebo language area in order to determine the needs for further LIBTRALO involvement in Grebo language development and strategically plan such involvement.

Language development has already taken place within the E Je dialect group of six dialects (Chedepo, Palipo, Gbepo, Klepo, Jlepo, and Tienpo) with the publication of the New Testament in 1989, and two primers. GRETRALO (Grebo Translation and Literacy Organization) has administered a literacy program currently taking place in twenty-four localities within the E Je area. The Grebo Literacy and Bible Training Mission has also been involved in literacy work primarily in Montovia, Harper, and the Barrobo area.

Grebo is part of the Kru language family, and thus related to both Kroumen Tépo in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Klao in Liberia, both of which have complete New Testaments.

Together with a general overview of the taxonomic and geographic language situation, a word list, interview, and individual test results are presented on comprehension of various other Grebo dialects (as well as Kroumen Tépo and Klao), phonetic differences between dialects, attitudes toward various dialects, and current language use. Also, information by local leaders on the literacy and religious situation is included.

The individual comprehension test results show how the feasibility of grouping the Grebo dialects into two additional groups for development purposes, excluding those which can benefit from already developed E Je, Kroumen Tépo, or Klao materials. With careful attention to the phonological relationship of close dialects, and a strategic choice of key words, primers can be designed which will be able to serve all the dialects within each grouping. Two more translations should suffice for all the Grebo dialects if translation committees are formed to include representatives of all the dialects within each group. The translation team must continuously consult with the committee to insure that the translation is comprehensible and adequately facile for all the included dialects.

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Language surveys
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