Mega-Chad: new website and blog

Mega-Chad is an international network concerned with multidisciplinary research on the history and evolution of societies in the Lake Chad basin. The network name “Mega-Chad” evokes the maximal extension of Lake Chad several millennia ago. The network has as its aims the encouragement and support of multidisciplinary research on the societies and environments past and present of the Lake Chad basin, and the dissemination of research results.

Recently, their website has moved from Bayreuth (Afrikanistik) to London (SOAS). In addition, a new Mega-Chad blog has been launched to facilitate communicating news and discussion among the members of the Mega-Chad network.



Glavda in Rural and Urban Contexts

Jonathan Owens has been working on documenting Glavda (Central Chadic) over the past 2 years, under an ELDP grant. He is now in the process of putting up the results at a website (link) :

  • transcribed and morphologically segmented texts
  • complete free translations of each
  • about 20% of 10 texts with interlinear glosses
  • accompanying audio files for each text

The texts are based on interviews conducted by consultants, mostly in the Ngoshe area, a few from Maiduguri. A certain degree of demographic and geographical diversity is represented in the sample, young (under 30) and old (over 50), men and women, three villages (Ngoshe, Agapalawa, Arboko).

Topics are broad: history, daily life, farming, cooking, current politics, the future of Glavda, teasing and bantering (often the interviewer knew the interviewee well), so that the texts have more than a linguistic interest, even if that is their primary focus.

Thus far 11 texts are available, the goal being 16 or 17. The entire corpus should be about 90,000 words.

More on Glavda

Chadic Lexical Database

“Chadic Lexical Database”  is a project run by Olga Stolbova at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow. The main goal of the project is to arrange the greater part of Chadic lexical data so far collected in kind of preliminary etymological entries. The project was presented in Prague, 2003.

Up to now three issues are available:

  • Chadic  Lexical Database Issue I: Letters L, N, NY, R. Moscow-Kaluga 2005
  • Chadic  Lexical Database Issue II: Lateral fricatives. Moscow-Kaluga 2007 (Download)
  • Chadic  Lexical Database Issue III: Sibilants and sibilant affricates, 2009 (Download)

Here is a sample entry (taken from Issue II):

A second edition of Issue III (with addenda and corrigenda) appeared in January, 2010.

Olga Stolbova has allowed us to put a PDF version of Issue II and Issue III online for download (file size ~1 MB).

For more details on the project see: O. Stolbova 2006. “Chadic Lexical Data Base: a project”, in: D.Ibriszimow (ed.), Topics in Chadic Linguistics II,  Papers from the 2nd Biennial International Colloquium on the Chadic Languages, Prague, October 11-12, 2003. Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, pp.85-104.

1. * V   `to cut (off, through), to slaughter’:    7 Sha î  `slaughter; shlachten’
(redupl.) [JgR]; C  2  Bura a  `cut up, into   pieces’ [Ann], Margi   ə `cut
(with  knife)’  [HfM:127];    3  Bana  a    `couper,  tailler,  trancher;  cut  (off,
through)’,  aa  `decouper,  depecer’  [GLBn],  FK  a    `cut,  trim’  [BlNd];  5
Podoko  a: `cut’   [JL]; 7  Mbuko  ā `cut’  Ould  — `couper’, -ar   `couper
pour qqn’ [KOu];   Gisiga -  `schneiden, schlachten; cut, slaughter’ [LkG];  9
Mulwi  i      `trancher,  couper;  cut  (off,  through)’,  Mbara  ii  `cut’  [TrMba,
Mlw];   Mnj  a `to cut’   [Mo a, p. 41] // Eg ʕ  `cut off a body-part of a person
/animal, fell trees, harvest, cut in pieces’  [EG: 415] (Pyr).
GCl *a `cut’.

Sketch grammars for dictionaries: SIL workshop in Cameroon

(via SIL) Linguists representing 16 African languages are attending a workshop this month conducted by SIL Cameroon in Yaoundé to produce sketch grammars suitable to introduce bilingual or trilingual dictionaries. The UK Kay Williamson Educational Fund (KWEF) will eventually publish several of the dictionaries in which these sketch grammars appear. (continue reading at SIL website)

A new website for the Ron-Kulere speaking world

A month ago I launched Ron-Kulere meeting place, a new website for the Ron-Kulere speaking world. Some of you may already have noticed it and may have wondered what is the aim of this new thing. I thought I should post a short notice here to explain a bit.

What is it ?

Like the current form of Chadic Newsletter, Ron-Kulere meeting place is a weblog, i.e. besides some general static pages it mostly consists of entries (posts) which are displayed in reverse chronological order. I have chosen this form because it allows me to add more things on an irregular basis, whenever I find the time. Thus, Ron-Kulere meeting place will keep growing.

What can you find here?

Ron-Kulere meeting place combines text, images, audio material and links to other web pages related to its topic. Besides information on Ron-Kulere languages, culture and history, people can also find material in Ron-Kulere languages, both written and recorded. Thus, you can read a Ron story and at the same time listen to it.

Who is it for ?

Ron-Kulere meeting place is for everyone (not just the scientific world) who is interested in the culture, history and language of the Ron-Kulere. Above all, it is intended for the Ron-Kulere speakers themselves. Of course I know that the number of Ron-Kulere speakers who have access to the world wide web is extremely small. But they do exist and I hope that they will find this blog interesting and will spread the word to others.

Possible criticism

I know very well that from a scientific point of view, the way I present the facts and materials is imperfect. Linguists will criticize me for not using the IPA system of transcription and for not marking tone. Also, the quality of many of the audio recordings is quite poor and wouldn’t be good enough for signal processing. Many of these recordings were done by Ron speakers using low quality tape recorders. Given the chance (and money) to do more research on Ron, today I would try to use the latest digital recording equipment.

But then, I think an imperfect presentation of my data (will it ever be perfect?) is still better than no presentation at all.

I will be happy to read – and answer – any questions and comments.

SIL releases FieldWorks 5.0

SIL has announced the release of version 5.0 of their language and culture research software FieldWorks:

SIL FieldWorks is a software suite that helps researchers to manage language and cultural data from the initial collection stage to the publication of dictionaries, text collections and grammars. Acclaimed by field researchers, FieldWorks is currently being used in small- to medium-sized dictionary projects at several universities. The new release, version 5.0, improves existing features and pioneers new features not found in other software.

New with version 5.0

  • ability to produce stem-based and root-based dictionaries from a single database
  • ability to interlinearize phrases
  • ability to filter a text corpus
  • partial French interface
  • Windows Vista compatibility

Improved features

  • expanded concordance capabilities
  • more export formats
  • ability to tailor the display of data in many available views

Contents of FieldWorks 5.0 suite

  • Language Explorer 2.0, a major application for analyzing language data and managing a lexicon and text corpus
  • Data Notebook 2.8, a data management application for cultural field work
  • WorldPad 2.8, a simple text editor using the Graphite rendering engine for complex scripts

Like many other SIL software products, FieldWorks is available under the SIL Open Source License. Because this license is granted to the user at no cost, the user is not entitled to free technical support from SIL. Service Bulletins are posted for known problem fixes and patches.

You can download SIL FieldWorks here. If you do not have the bandwidth to make downloading practical, you may order a CD-ROM that contains the FieldWorks files for the price of the media, shipping, and handling. Contact:

DYWAN: Dynamics of Linguistic Change in Northeastern Nigeria

DYWAN — Dynamik Sprachlichen Wandels in Nordostnigeria (“Dynamics of Linguistic Change in Northeastern Nigeria”) — is the name of a new research project which examines aspects of contact-induced language change in northeastern Nigeria. The project has started in April and will continue for three years. It is based at the University of Vienna, Department of African Studies and is done in cooperation with the University of Maiduguri. The principal investigator is Prof. Dr. Norbert Cyffer, other project members are:

More information can be found at the project website:

Chadic links collection: feel free to contribute

I have started collecting my own list, using the social bookmarking service

In one of the first posts, I mentioned Web resources for African Languages, a private website run by Jouni F. Maho. There, one can find links to online materials on many Chadic languages, including articles, dictionaries, sound files and word lists. It is organised by subgroups and languages and it keeps growing. If you look for any Chadic online materials, it is the first place to check.

I have started collecting my own list, using the social bookmarking service My own Chadic links can be found at

Maybe you have already noticed the new section titled “Chadic Links“. Feel free to contribute to this list. In order to do this, all you have to do is open an account with (which is free of charge) and save your own Chadic links there. It would be great if we could build up a larger collection together.

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Chadic languages on SIL Cameroon Website

SIL Cameroon has a website where — besides other information — one can find details about their latest publications on languages spoken in Cameroon, including many Chadic languages: Baldamu, Bana, Buduma, Buwal, Cuvok, Daba, Dugwor, Gabri, Gavar, Gude, Hdi, Jimi, Kera, Lagwan, Mafa, Mbedam, Mbuko, Mefele, Merey, Mina, Mofu-Gudur, Moloko, Mpade, Muyang, Ouldeme, Podoko, Sharwa, Tsuvan, Vame, and Zulgo.

In order to find this information, you can use an index sorted by language family, province and name, either in English or in French. Information is available on alternate names, SIL code, ALCAM number and name, dialects and population figures.

Many of the listed publications are available as PDF or HTML files. In order to get the special characters right, you need to have the Cam Cam SILDoulosL font installed on your computer. You can download this font in their Resources and links section.

Publications on Kera

Mary Pearce is doing research on Kera. She has sent a list of her publications:

  • 2006. The Interaction between metrical structure and tone in Kera. Phonology. 23.2 CUP. 259-286. (Abstract / Download PDF file)
  • 2006. Evidence against voicing spread in Kera. In (eds.) M Pearce and R. Breheny, UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 18. Department of Phonetics and Linguistics, UCL. (Download PDF file)
  • 2005. Iambicity without stress in Kera, Proceedings of CamLing conference, 2005.
  • 2005. Kera Tone and Voicing. In (eds.) M Pearce and N Topintzi, UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 17. Department of Phonetics and Linguistics, UCL (Download PDF file)
  • 2002. Chad. In John Shepherd, David Horn and Dave Laing (eds.), Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world. 19-23. London/New York: Continuum.
  • 1998/1999. Consonants and tone in Kera (Chadic). Journal of West African Languages 27(1): 33-70.
  • 1994. An introductory study of music among the Kera. Notes on Anthropology and Intercultural Community Work 14: 26-46. SIL. (Online on SIL website)

Mary worked with SIL among the Kera from 1992-2002. Since then she’s been studying for an MA and then PhD in Phonology (with Moira Yip as supervisor). Her dissertation should be finished around June and it will investigate the interaction between tone, vowel harmony and foot structure in Kera. If all goes well, she plans to return to Chad with SIL in early 2008 – and she hopes to continue to research phonological and phonetic issues with regard to Chadic languages.

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