Describing endangered languages

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The present contribution deals with documenting underdocumented andendangered languages in Africa. It focuses on the documentation of languagesthrough PhD programs as most grammatical descriptions produced todaystem from PhD theses. The focus lies on facets of the organization and conceptionof a PhD grammar project on the endangered Bantu language Yeyi. Thisproject resulted in a published grammatical description in about 4 years. Thearticle describes important aspects of the research program as they relate tothe development of the grammatical description as well as the writing processof the grammatical description itself. In doing so the relationship between thecreation of a comprehensive grammatical description and prior preparation forthe fieldwork, e.g. survey work, developing cultural expertise, the team environmentboth in the field and at home, are elaborated against a backdrop of stateof-the-art theorizations about descriptive grammars. I situate the work on theYeyi grammar in the context of the newly emerging documentary-linguisticsdiscipline, and provide some suggestions for how PhD documentation projectsshould be carried out in the 21st century.


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