The early beginnings of Chadic Newsletter

As we already announced, this year, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Chadic Newsletter. In 1970, Herrmann Jungraithmayr sent out the first issue of this newsletter, which continued to be produced and distributed in printed form until 1998. Uwe Seibert, one of the present editors of Chadic Newsletter Online, asked Herrmann Jungraithmayr a few questions about the early beginnings and how things developed through the years.

Q: Dear Professor Jungraithmayr, how did the idea to start such a newsletter come about? Who proposed it first and when did you decide to start?

A: Already in 1967 at the 7th West African Languages Congress, held at Lagos university, some colleagues including Carl Hoffmann, John Bendor-Samuel, Charles Kraft and myself discussed the need for a common platform among linguists with a special concern for Chadic languages. It was then in Abidjan at the 8th Congress in 1968 that a Chadic Working Group was constituted. Esther Frick, Joseph H. Greenberg, Carl Hoffmann, Paul and Roxana Ma Newman and I participated in its first session. The Group agreed on offering Johannes Lukas the protectorship over the Group. I was asked to organize a sort of a „Sprachrohr“ for the Group and its activities and to invite others to join the Group. Research into Chadic Languages had increased in the preceding years, especially since Carl Hoffmann’s Bura and Margi studies and Paul Newman’s and Roxana Ma’s Comparative research (of 1965). In March 1970, Issue No. 1 of our „Chadic Newsletter“, the organ of the Chadic Working Group within the West African Linguistic Society, was published. Essentially, it contained the sections „Suggestions and comments“, „Current research and forthcoming publications“, „Conferences, Seminars, etc.” and „Proposed topics“, all partly derived from answers and comments sent to the editor who had mailed about 50 circulars and questionnaires to scholars concerned. The letter also contained the names and addresses of ca. 50 Chadicists.

Q: How was the newsletter produced and distributed?

A: The way of producing the first issues of the newsletter was extremely simple and primitive. It was typed and xeroxed at our Afrikanistische Abteilung which had been established at Marburg University in 1962. I had joined this new institution in 1965. The Library of the university was very kind and helpful in distributing the newsletter.

Prof. Dr. Herrmann Jungraithmayr talking to H. E. Mai Martaba Sale Muhammadu, First Class Chief of Kaltungo (Picture taken 2009)

Q: How many issues of Chadic Newsletter were produced per year and how many people/institutions received it?

A: In the first two years two issues per year appeared but this frequency could not be maintained. In 1985, the year when the editor and his office moved to Frankfurt University, the last issue to appear in Marburg was no. 15.  By then, about 100 copies were distributed to individual researchers as well as to relevant institutions and libraries all over the world.

Q: Which types of information did you include and how did you get this information?

A: The information contained in the newsletter was mainly derived from letters to the editors, but also from the editor’s own survey work. During the years of production at the newly founded Institut für Afrikanische Spraohwissenschaften at Frankfurt University particularly valuable help in producing and distributing the newsletter has been received from Mrs Irmgard Wolcke-Renk. The friendly assistance of Adam Jones, David Anderson and especially of Michael Broß whose contribution to the work of editing has become indispensable in the last years should be very gratefully acknowledged.

Q: Some years ago, Chadic Newsletter ceased being produced in printed form. It is now a weblog, i.e. a website which is updated whenever some new information needs to be shared among the community of Chadicists. Are you happy with the way news on Chadic is shared these days? What else could be done?

A: I am very glad that people like you keep the important project going. The main thing is that Chadic Newsletter continues to exist. Whether it is an advantage that it is now presented in form of a website, an answer to this question I must leave to others now concerned to judge. Of course, so many more people have access to the relevant information. Personally, as you know, I am rather old-fashioned and can not fully appreciate the disposal of merely virtual information; I need a book or letter, really printed, as a fixed and permanent source of information. But probably, with the progress in technology, taste in these matters has also changed. However, a last remark or question: Could I still go today to the library of an African Department and ask for the printed copy of the last issues; of the newsletter, say since 1998 when the last issue appeared in print? As to me, I found a bound volume of the issues number 1 to 22 (1970-98) in our Institute’s library where I enjoyed browsing through the exciting documentation of our field of research.

Dear Professor Jungraithmayr, thank you for this interview!


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