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Documentation of Extreme North Cameroon Sign Language and Cameroon Sign Language


Language Extreme North Cameroon Sign Language, Cameroon Sign Language
Depositor Sam Lutalo-Kiingi
Affiliation Kyambogo University
Location Cameroon
Collection ID 0347
Grant ID IPF0200
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This project documents and compares two languages: the rural sign language referred to here as Extreme North Cameroon Sign Language (ExNorthCamSL), which is used in and around the town of Maroua in the Extreme North of Cameroon, and Cameroon Sign Language (ExNorthCamSL) which is used in the rest of the country (Central, Littoral, North-West, South-West, and West regions). CamSL has been influenced by American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des Signes Française (LSF, or French Sign Language) through educators and missionaries who imported the language in deaf schools. So far, there has been no linguistic research on CamSL and (regional) variation in CamSL (De Clerck, 2011, 2012; Lutalo-Kiingi & De Clerck, 2015; 2017).

The project aims to document ExCamSL and its community, cultural history, and cultural practices. Data collection results in an annotated signvisual documentation corpus with data from a diverse group of ExCamSL signers.


Group represented

Extreme North Cameroon Signers


Language information

Extreme North Cameroon Sign Language (ExNorthCamSL) is used by members of the ExNorthCamSL community around the town of Maroua and the villages in the rural region around Maroua. The community shares a long and rich history of language and cultural transmission and there is daily communication in ExNorthCamSL among hearing and deaf signers of diverse ages. Early use of ExNorthCamSL was evidenced by the story of a deaf elder who had knowledge of five to six generations of users of ExNorthCamS. Members estimate that there are currently about 200 users of ExNorthCamSL. Members use a specific sign to refer to ExNorthCamSL, which also marks the distinction with Cameroon Sign Language (CamSL), the signed language that is used in the rest of the country.

CamSL has been influenced by American Sign Language (ASL) and French Sign Language (LSF); the origins of this foreign sign language influence are in language ideologies and development partnerships in educational institutions (De Clerck,2011; 2012; Lutalo-Kiingi & De Clerck, 2015, 2017). The use of foreign sign languages and CamSL in educational institutions in the Far North Region has also started to influence ExNorthCamSL, and code-switching between these variants can be noticed in young deaf signers. These influences, in combination with language ideologies, and limited documentation and awareness of ExNorthCamSL put the language at risk.

Spoken languages that are used in the Far North region are French, which is the language of administration; and Fulani or Fulfulde, which is used by the Arabic and Kirdi people.


Special characteristics

ExNorthCamSL differs from CamSL and other signed languages in the region. The language has unique sign language phonology with non-marked manual features and sign space.


Collection contents

The majority of bundles in this collection are signed video recordings. The deposited comprises 101 bundles of the Extreme North Cameroon sign language that reflect narratives, spontaneous language use in the form of monologues, dialogues, and group conversations. The fieldwork was undertaken in the Far North Cameroon region of Cameroon. The video recordings document common socio-cultural practices among signing hearing and deaf community members, including community meetings in different towns in the North Cameroon region, the transmission of cultural practices during village gatherings, money-go-round meetings, an excursion of shoe-selling at the Market, explanations of agriculture and local food production. The recorded stories cover a wide range of themes such as myths and legends, historical narratives, and personal stories.

Each bundle contains a signed video recording with audio (speakers and noise) in the background, ELAN files, and PDF documents of the consent forms. The total duration of the videos is 8 hours. Not all video recordings in the ExNorthCamSL collection have been transcribed yet. The recordings that have been transcribed (1,5 hours), have been segmented in Elan, with glossaries in English or French and transcriptions in English French, and with English translations. The main reason behind the segmentation of the recordings lies in their usability.

One and a half hours of the recordings have already been transcribed; the annotation of the remaining recordings (more than 2,5 hours) is still being completed.

A few recordings can be openly accessed in the ELAR catalogue. However, there is restricted access to most of the video recordings; These restrictions have been put into place to protect the language community, especially since the project had to be put on hold before it was completed, due to armed conflict (Boko Haram) in the region.


Collection history

The data for this collection was collected during the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship of Sam Lutalo-Kiingi, the principal investigator, between June 2013 and February 2014.


Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of the collection should acknowledge Sam Lutalo-Kiingi as the principal investigator, data collector, researcher. User should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) as the funder of the project. Data should be anonymised in research citations and the researcher should be contacted.

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

Lutalo-Kiingi, Sam. 2014. Documentation of Extreme North Cameroon Sign Language and Cameroon Sign Language. Endangered Languages Archive. Accessed on [insert date here].

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