The Kibena language is spoken by approximately 670,000 people living in southern Tanzania. Kibena is largely undocumented, and there is no usable, detailed. By means of an NSF grant to Dr. Claire Bowern of Rice University, Ph.D. candidate Michelle Morrison will document Kibena texts and produce a grammar. This preliminary grammar will include an analysis of the sound system of the language, descriptions of word, clause, and sentence structure, and a discussion of various aspects of Kibena at the level of discourse and conversation. Rather than relying primarily on elicited data ("How do you say X in Kibena?"), this project will utilize larger texts and conversations in an effort to study Kibena in its most natural form. Therefore one of the outputs of this project will be the compilation of a corpus of audio and video recordings. Materials in the corpus will be transcribed, with translations provided in both English and Kiswahili (the national language of Tanzania), in order to facilitate access by other researchers interested in the language.
The Bena people are interested in increasing the profile and use of Kibena, particularly with regard to written materials. The Committee for Promoting Bena Culture (PBC, formerly Kibena Language Committee) has requested the production of a "grammar book" of their language which they plan to use to aid in the production of written materials. This project includes the production of a simplified grammar, which will be written in Kiswahili in order to facilitate access by adult Kibena speakers. This grammar will be aimed at facilitating the production of written materials. In addition, this project provides for the production of a book of stories (histories, folk tales, etc.). This book will be aimed at speakers with basic functional literacy. Copies of all materials resulting from this project will be provided to the PBC and efforts will be made to ensure the usability of project materials for the production of Kibena language materials.