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Documentation of Isimjeeg Datooga


Language Datooga
Depositor Richard Thomas Griscom
Affiliation University of Oregon
Location Tanzania
Collection ID 0378
Grant ID IGS0229
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle



Summary of the collection

The three main components of this collection include: a collection of audio-visual recordings that is representative of a spectrum of variation within the Isimjeeg Datooga community, a tri-lingual dictionary and FLEx lexicon, and a sketch grammar.

The collection includes recordings of over 60 different speakers from four different communities and covers a wide range of content, such as: personal life histories, food preparation, traditional medicine, hunting, historical accounts of conflict, migration histories, respect for elders, cultural changes among the youth, marriage and divorce, household structures and items, musical instruments, fictional tales, songs, riddles, dances, and poems. Both single-speaker and multi-speaker recordings are included, with multiple speakers marked in transcriptions using a numbering system.

The dictionary includes approximately 2300 entries with Swahili and English translations, grammatical information such as lexical class, number, verb class, and ATR, and approximately 300 transcribed example sentences with Swahili and English translations. Example sentences are labeled with unique reference IDs that allow users to locate each example in the corpus.

The grammar sketch covers a range of different topics in the grammatical system of Asimjeeg Datooga, and also includes a literature review, information about the sociolinguistic background of the language, and a brief description of language endangerment and multilingualism. In the phonology section, the phoneme inventory, phonotactics, and tone system are described. In the nominal morphosyntax section, nominal morphology and tonology are described, including number, demonstrative, possessive, anaphoric reference, and case constructions. In the verbal morphosyntax section, a brief outline of verbal morphology is provided, including, verb classes, ATR, indexation, tense-aspect-mood constructions, directionality, tone, and relative clause constructions. The section on closed classes describes the basic structure and distributional properties of pronominals, adjectives, numerals, adverbials, prepositions, conjunctions, and discourse particles. The final two sections describe verbal and non-verbal syntactic constructions.


Group represented

This collection focused on the Isimjeeg variety of Datooga. There number of Isimjeeg Datooga speakers is estimated to be no more than 3,000. As of early 2017, there are four communities of Isimjeeg Datooga speakers, three of which are in the Eyasi Basin (Mang’ola, Mital, and Dugwamuhosht), and one of which is far north in the Mara region (Law). Mang’ola is a collection of villages located near the southeastern border of Lake Eyasi, south of Mt. Oldeani, in the Arusha region and Karatu district. Most of the villages in Mang’ola are located on the surrounding edges of a central valley that is used primarily for agriculture. Mang’ola is well known regionally for the production of red onions and the use of irrigation canals. Increasing agricultural activity in the area since the 1990s is reported by locals to have led to a dramatic increase in the population and reduction in wildlife and natural water sources. Most of the Asimjeeg Datooga living in Mang’ola reside in Laghangareri, Malekchand, and Dumbechand villages. These three villages form the western border of Mang’ola, after which there are remote areas sparsely populated by other Datooga speakers and the Hadzabe. The total number of Asimjeeg Datooga in these three villages is estimated to be between 400 and 600, most of which occupy the western edge of the Laghangareri hills and Dumbechand. Other ethnic groups in the area include non-Asimjeeg Datooga, Iraqw, Hadzabe, and some Bantu groups from the west, including Sukuma, Nyiramba, and Isanzu. Swahili is widely spoken throughout the area, and mono-lingual Asimjeeg Datooga speakers are rare. Many Asimjeeg in this area can also speak some Iraqw due to intermarriage and general language contact. Mang’ola is the most urban and cosmopolitan of the four Asimjeeg Datooga communities, and residential patterns situate homes closely together, separated from agricultural work areas. Mital (‘Matala’ in Swahili) is located near the southwestern tip of Lake Eyasi, on the other side of a large and sparsely inhabited area from Mang’ola. Central Mital is a dense residential area, but the surrounding areas are sparsely populated. Other ethnic groups in Mital include non-Asimjeeg Datooga, Sukuma, Isanzu, and Nyiramba. Some of the Sukuma in the area adopt Datooga-style clothing, including wearing a shawl and metal bangles, indicating at least some level of local prestige associated with the Datooga. Many Asimjeeg Datooga in the area wear completely black shawls, a practice which is not as common in Mang’ola. The number of Asimjeeg Datooga speakers in Mital is estimated to be no more than 600. Data was collected for this collection in Mital over three visits of a few days each in 2016 and 2017. Dugwamuhosht is the most remote Asimjeeg Datooga community and is located in the Yaeda Valley, separated from Lake Eyasi by a range of hills. Dugwamuhosht consists of some three dozen or so traditional homesteads and small farm plots. The only other ethnic groups in the area are non-Asimjeeg Datooga and a small number of Hadzabe. The number of Asimjeeg Datooga speakers in Dugwamuhosht is estimated to be no more than 200. Law is the generic name used to refer to all of the Asimjeeg Datooga communities in the Mara region, most of which are centered around Issenye village (as of mid 2017). Law is of great cultural significance to the Asimjeeg Datooga because it is their place of origin, although use of the language has declined significantly in the area. The largest community of Asimjeeg Datooga speakers in Law is the village named Manawa, 10.68 kilometers (6.64 miles) northeast of Issenye village. Manawa has a small developed village center, surrounded by areas of sparsely distributed residences and agricultural fields. Other areas where a handful of Asimjeeg Datooga reside include Iharara and Singis, to the south and southeast of Issenye village, respectively. Issenye village itself is much more densely populated than all of these areas and offers a number of services, including electricity, tap water, 2G mobile data connections, and primary and secondary schools. Although there is some contact between Law and the three southern communities, it is safe to say that the speech patterns used in Law are considered to be distinct from those of the other communities. The Asimjeeg Datooga of Law are also culturally distinct in other ways: men do not wear the patterned shawls so commonly associated with pastoralists in other regions, and some dance and song traditions indicate significant influence from neighboring Bantu groups, including the Issenye and Kuria. There appear to be more Rootigenga Datooga speakers in this region than Asimjeeg Datooga, but it remains to be explored how much interaction there has been between these two groups. The number of Asimjeeg Datooga speakers in Law is estimated to be no more than 200, and data for this collection was collected in Law during one four-day visit in March, 2017.


Language information

Isimjeeg (Glottocode: tsim1256, endonym “Asimjeeg”) is a variety of Datooga (Glottocode: dato1239, ISO: [tcc]), which itself is considered to be a dialect cluster or group of closely related languages. Datooga is well established in the Southern Nilotic family and is grouped together with the moribund language †Omotik in a branch of Southern Nilotic called Omotik-Datooga, independent of the Kalenjin languages of Kenya that form the other primary branch of the family.

The number of Isimjeeg Datooga speakers is estimated to be no more than 3,000. As of early 2017, there are four communities of Isimjeeg Datooga speakers, three of which are in the Eyasi Basin, and one of which is far north in the Mara region.


Special characteristics

This collection consists of the first audio-visual documentation of a non-majority Datooga variety, and includes recordings from each community in which the variety is spoken.


Collection contents

This collection currently includes the following data:

  • Approximately 140 hours of audio recordings (.WAV format), including elicited data, narratives, and dialogues.
  • Approximately 20 hours of video recordings (.MTS and .MP4 formats), including narratives, dialogues, traditional music, and poetry.
  • A sketch grammar
  • A dictionary and FLEx database


Collection history

Fieldwork for this collection included three field trips from 2015 to 2017: a three-month trip from March to June 2015, a five-month trip from October 2015 to March 2016, and a seven-month trip from October 2016 to April 2017. The primary field site during all three trips was Laghangareri village in Mang’ola. Additional trips were made to Mital, Dugwamuhosht, and Law, for only a few days at a time.


Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of this collection should acknowledge Richard Griscom as the primary researcher and the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme as the funder of the project. Data should be cited using reference IDs contained within ELAN files or filenames whenever possible.

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

Griscom, Richard T. 2018. Documenting Isimjeeg Datooga. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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