Documenting Vanishing Languages

Jeff Good, assistant professor of linguistics.

Jeff Good, assistant professor of linguistics, is leading a project that includes describing the grammar and lexicon of several languages in Cameroon that are in danger of disappearing.

“As the numbers of languages decline, we lose rich and distinct cultural variations from which we can learn a great deal in fields as far-ranging as anthropology, ethnobotany, linguistics, philosophy, geography and prehistory.”
Jeff Good
Assistant professor of linguistics

The indigenous languages of Cameroon’s Lower Fungom region are in danger of vanishing, and Jeff Good, an assistant professor of linguistics, has made it his work to document them before they do.

With a team of graduate students, Good is undertaking a project that includes describing the grammar and lexicon of Lower Fungom languages, as well as creating audio recordings of native speakers.

The researchers also are investigating the historical and sociolinguistic forces that have enabled so many varieties of speech to flourish in Lower Fungom, one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world.

The work in Africa, which aligns with the UB 2020 strategic strength in Cultures and Texts, is particularly important in an era of mass extinction.

Some experts predict that half of the world’s languages will disappear within a century, with urbanization and cultures of monolinguism diminishing smaller languages’ chance of survival.

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