The goal of the project is to document and describe the three language varieties of West Ambrym. Since these languages have hardly been described, written down, recorded or otherwise documented before, our first tasks have been rather fundamental: Developing orthographies, collecting traditional stories and oral history and compiling first dictionaries and grammar sketches based on these recordings.
At the same time, the project is not a purely linguistic enterprise and the process is meant to benefit local speakers just as much as the research community. Soraya Hosni’s anthropological work on the island opens up a more profound understanding of stories and cultural practices. Moreover, her work on marriage relations and kinship is not only of primary interest by the anthropological community but hopefully will also help us to a better understanding of the relations between the different language varieties in the region.
On a local level, we have had tremendous support by the various communities we have been working with. They have already shown a strong commitment to take part in the development of orthographies, the compilation of stories, and the stylistic conventions for written language. We have done our best to cooperate and respect the wishes and needs of local speakers and we hope to produce monolingual story books and dictionaries to be used at schools.