We aim at recording a diverse as possible set of communicative events in all three speech communities. Special attention will be paid to speech forms linked with traditional knowledge and lore, which are also endangered. We think of genres of oral literature, such as proverbs, tales, riddles, praise poems, origin myths, historical accounts, traditional folk songs.

Literary genres involving paralinguistic performance will be video recorded. Such is the case for rites and ceremonies, such as name giving, marriages and funerals, which involve aesthetic and conventionalised forms of speech. It is obvious that community members will be heard when they oppose themselves to the recording of certain events, but they will also be invited to suggest themes or speech forms they want to see documented.

Kikwit-based radios will be involved in raising awareness of our project among community members and in inciting people to contribute to the documentation of certain forms of orature.

Furthermore, our fieldwork will target the systematic documentation of ethnobiological knowledge, together with a systematic scientific identification of the species concerned as well of their daily (culinary, medicinal, ritual, etc.) uses among the peoples concerned. Special attention will be paid to hunting, gathering and fishing. These activities involve not only specialised vocabulary, but also characteristic forms of language use, such as ritual formulas, codified speech and chants, and a strong labour division involving specific discourse.

Through the recording of considerable amounts of spontaneous speech, we will compile an extensive corpus, which a good database for the study ofinformation structure in these languages. A special effort will be made to safeguard audio and video recordings of this endangered knowledge. Discussing these data with community members will be a good way to collect further texts.

Planned outcomes

The research outcomes aimed at are as follows:

1. Systematic documentation of Nsambaan, Nsong, Ngong: It will continue the documentation efforts started for Nsong and Ngong in the framework of Joseph Koni Muluwa’s PhD study and align them with DoBeS standards. Nsambaan is nearly totally undocumented. The documentation of this language thus starts from nil. The project’s main outcome will thus be a high quality audio and video archive for all three languages consisting of a large number of sound recordings and a smaller number of film recordings of a diverse, balanced and comparable set of communicative events. This documentation will be made accessible to the wider scientific community through storage in theDoBeS Digital Archive located at the MPI for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen. To this end, we will transcribe, translate, interlinearise and annotate as many texts as possible, evenly spread over the different types of targeted speech events. Our documentation efforts per language will be in proportion to the community response as well as the degree of endangerment observed in the field.

2. Corpus-based lexicons of the languages under study: An effort will be made to compile corpus-based lexicons of about 3000 words per language. Translations will be provided in French, English and Kikongo in order to serve diverse target groups. Special attention will be paid to semantic content rich in information on the material and immaterial culture and the socio-political organisation of the speech communities under study.

3. Guide of useful plants, mushrooms and animals from the Kwilu: On the basis of data collected within the framework of the principal researcher’s PhD thesis and completed with new data collected amongst the Nsambaan people, a book on popular biological knowledge of Kwilu rural communities, i.e. on names, uses and folk classifications of plants, mushrooms and animals, will be compiled and published. This book is primarily aimed to be a pedagogical material usable in Congolese secondary schools, colleges and/or universities. It should raise awareness about traditional knowledge on biodiversity and the fact it is severely endangered.

4. Development of a practical orthography for the languages under study

5. Drafting of local MA dissertations at the ISP of Kikwit on certain aspects of the endangered languages under study. This will happen under the co-supervision of Joseph Koni Muluwa in collaboration with our local research assistants. In this way, we aim at promoting the involvement of Congolese students in our research.

6. Raising awareness on language endangerment, not only in the local communities and academia, but also among European audiences, for instance through an exhibition on language diversity and language loss with scientific input from the proposed documentation project.

7. Drafting of high quality academic papers on interesting lexical and grammatical phenomena observed in the documentation in order to continuelinguistic research on these languages.