Speech Sounds of Grassfields Languages

Image of African jungle landscape.

Small language, big data. 

Project description

The Grassfields Bantu languages are spoken by about one-fifth of the population of Cameroon in a mountainous upland area in the country's West and Northwest Regions. The cultural continuity of many of these languages is currently endangered by a long-running civil conflict centered in the northern part of this area. The overall goal of this project is to document some aspects of cultural knowledge for posterity in a way which also generates immediately useful media products for the speaker speaker communities and improves scientific knowledge of the languages.

As a member of this project team, you will work remotely or in person to transcribe and annotate existing recordings of Grassfields Bantu languages (focusing on Bamileke, Ring, or Lower Fungom languages). You will learn basics of field linguistic analysis through your practice, and in the long run your efforts will help develop automatic parsing and transcription tools for these languages where none currently exist. 

Project outcome

Collections of audio data will be organized, annotated, and archived, to be made available to relevant community members and concerned scientists on request. Other outcomes: public-facing language learning materials, academic publications to share insights into the compilation process and the data itself. The specific directions taken will depend on which topics are of joint interest to the student(s), the project mentor, and any interested community members. 

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment About 6-9 months
Start time Fall 2023
In-person, remote, or hybrid? Hybrid
Level of collaboration Small group project (2-3 students)
Benefits Research experience; academic credit
Who is eligible Undergraduate students who have completed LIN 301. Completion of LIN 431, and knowledge of Python and basic NLP toolkits are optional, but beneficial.

Project mentor

Matthew Faytak

Assistant Professor


Start the project

  1. Email the project mentor using the contact information above to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to contact a project mentor.)
  2. After you receive approval from the mentor to start this project, click the button to start the digital badge. (Learn more about ELN's digital badge options.) 

Preparation activities

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