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Documentation of Baba’1


Language Baba’1 (ISO639-3:bbw),
Depositor Anne Vilain
Affiliation University Stendhal/Institut de la Communication Parlee
Location Cameroon
Collection ID 0255
Grant ID FTG0113
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This is a collection of materials of the Baba’1 community and their language Baba’1 in the Ndop plain, North-West province of Cameroon. The use of the Baba’1 language is endangered, and the community and especially the chief of the village and the school teacher are very much concerned with the preservation of their language and traditional stories. After initial research by Anne Vilain in collaboration with Angela Mohtangongho, a student in France and a native speaker of Baba’1, this collection brings together more systematic linguistic and cultural data from a wide range of speakers and situations.


Group represented

This collection represents members of the Baba’1 community, who live in Baba’1, a village of 12,750 inhabitants (SIL, 1982) located on the hills surrounding the plain of Ndop, 40 km from Bamenda, North-West province of Cameroon.

The language is called Baba’1 or “su papjax” in the language. Baba’1 is spoken as a first language by all the inhabitants. There are no monolingual speakers of Baba’1, and almost nobody speaks Baba’1 as a second language. Interactions with other villages are in Pidgin English. Formal communication is in English and some French.

Baba’1 is used in traditional ceremonies but is not used in church. No media uses Baba’1. Baba’1 is used in the first year in primary school and replaced with English in the following years. High school is taught in English and French. Teenagers going to high schools tend to speak more Pidgin than Baba’1, replace lots of Baba’1 words with Pidgin words, and forget part of their Baba’1 vocabulary.

In July 2005 during initial fieldwork, community members appeared to be very concerned about the preservation of their native language, willing to record audio and video data, and interested in the idea of writing Baba’1. The chief of Baba’1 is very aware that something needs to be done for the preservation of the language, and supports a wider documentation of the language. The school teacher has also shown much interest in making pedagogical material for use in school to introduce writing in Baba’1 in the first years of primary school.


Language information

Baba’1 (ISO639-3:bbw; Niger-Congo, Narrow Grassfields) is spoken in the village of Baba’1, Ndop plain, North-West Province, Cameroon. Baba’1 is also known as Baba, Bapa, Bapakum, Papia, Papiakum, and Supapya’.

Baba’1 is not written. Matthaus Njeck (SIL) has developed a spelling system. Educated community members have literacy in English and sometimes French.

Nashipu Julius (University of Yaounde I) has written an MA thesis on the phonology of Baba’1. No other linguistic description is available for the language.

Bamun, another language from the Nun group to which Baba’1 belong, is better described and has had a writing system since 1895. Bamun is spoken very close to the Baba’1 area. Other direct neighbouring languages are Vengo, Oku, Wushi, Bamunka, and Lamnso’.


Special characteristics

Angela Mohtangongho, one of the researchers involved in the project, is a member of the Baba’1 community and a native speaker of Baba’1, the language represented in this collection.


Collection contents

The materials in this collection include

  • audio and video recordings of varied texts and situations, including conversations and traditional ceremonies
  • information about socio-cultural practices, including mourning, twins, kinship and family relationships
  • an investigation of cultural transmission to children, including whether, how and when mothers tell stories to their babies, the ontogeny of telling and counting, including finger-telling and telling stories involving a precursor of finger-counting
  • time-aligned IPA transcription, annotation and translation into English
  • a lexicon
  • a phonetic and phonological analysis
  • pedagogical material to teach children how to write Baba’1, e.g. a book of riddles illustrated by the children
  • a book and a film on the history of the settlement to transmit the oral history from the men to younger people and women


Collection history

Between 2004 and 2005, Anne Vilain and Angela Mohtangongho, a student from Baba’1 who at that point had been living in France for 15 years, carried out preliminary analyses of the phonetic and phonological system of Baba’1 and built a Baba’1-French lexicon of 1,200 entries, with Angela Mohtangongho as the only reference speaker.

In July 2005, Anne Vilain and Angela Mohtangongho conducted a one-month field trip to meet the language community and to record audio and video data. They discussed a lot with community members and recorded 12 hours of audio and 4 hours of video covering cooking recipes, witchcraft stories, traditional tales and stories, discourse on traditions and rules, personal histories, the history of the settlement of the Baba’ people told by several speakers, riddles and songs by the children, a discussion about social life and the status of women, and greetings. The recordings were gathered from a range of speakers (including the chief (fon), fotables, farmers, school teacher, students, villagers, women, men, children, teenagers), in a range of settings (dialogues, monologues, with or without audience) and from people with a range of backgrounds (people who had never left the village, people who live in town, people who had lived away and come back). The materials were transcribed into IPA and translated into French and English.

The materials in this collection were gathered and prepared between 2006 and 2007 during the fieldwork for the ELDP Field Trip Grant held by Anne Vilain.


Other information

The materials in this collection will also be deposited at the palace of Baba’1 and at the lab of the Institut de la Communication Parlee.


Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Vilain, Anne. 2015. Documentation of Baba’1. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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