Languages spoken by small populations are threatened by globalization and ongoing socioeconomic changes, yet they contain undocumented linguistic infrastructure and cultural information. This project documents such an endangered language, thereby providing new insights into important questions in linguistic theory such as tone, vowel systems and vowel harmony, and speech strategies. This linguistic analysis will also provide a deeper understanding of regional population history and will advance the understanding of local plants and plant uses. The results will be documented and disseminated via a reference grammar, a multi-lingual lexicon, an ethno-historical monograph, an ethnobotanical database of plants and plant uses, as well as by archived, annotated language data. Societal impacts include training of local community members in language documentation, fostering international scientific cooperation through active collaboration among scholars, and training undergraduate students in methods of language documentation and analysis.

With data from a rare and underrepresented language, this project will produce theoretical analysis that will influence linguistic typology and theory in the domains of Advanced Tongue Root (ATR) harmony (there is an unusual case of sounds having to be similar to each other), non-concatenative tonal morphology and grammatical tone, logophoricity, and reported speech. Through its linguistic analysis the research will produce a broader context of the society, culture, and history in which this language is used. The collected data will illuminate both the present-day ethno-linguistic landscape of the region and unsolved issues in language classification, and the enrichment with new language data of a growing comparative ethnobotanical database. The result will be of use to a variety of sciences and organizations.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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Princeton University
United States
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