Njerep: a postcard from the edge

Bruce A Connell, David Zeitlyn

Abstract


Njerep is a language on the edge of extinction. It is no longer spoken on a regular basis, nor is it even known well by anyone speaker. There are now, in fact, only five people who remember the language well enough to produce fragments of speech or who remember songs in the language. Our aim in this paper is to
document the language to the extent possible. We have collected a wordlist of the language, a number of songs and other bits of text which, fragmentary though they are, permit some insights into the structure of the language, its genetic affiliation and its former importance in the region. Since we view language as a cultural artifact intimately connected to both the culture and the history of its speakers, the paper begins with a brief discussion of Njerep ethnography and history. We then look at evidence for the genetic affiliation of Njerep, and follow this with a description of its structural characteristics. Appendices are included which contain the Njerep wordlist, transcriptions of songs and, finally, genealogical information on the remaining speakers, which gives some insight into the sociological aspect of language contraction.

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