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Legacy Documentation of Soo and Nyangi from John M. Weatherby’s Field Notes and Audio Recordings

Landing page image for the collection 'Digitization of John Weatherby's analogue audio recordings of Soo and Nyang'i'

John M. Weatherby and Loguti below Obda, a summit of Mount Kadam (Photographer: John M. Weatherby). Landing page image for the collection ‘Digitization of John M. Weatherby’s analogue audio recordings of Soo and Nyang’i’. Click on image to access collection.

Language Soo (ISO639-3:teu), Nyang’i (ISO639-3:nyp)
Depositor Samuel James Beer
Affiliation University of Virginia
Location Uganda
Collection ID 0646
Grant ID 1911571
Funding Body National Science Foundation
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This collection consists of digitized audio recordings of Soo and Nyangi produced in northeastern Uganda between 1964 and 1972. It includes directly elicited wordlists, songs, traditional narratives, and conversations.

The data was collected by John M. Weatherby, an art teacher, civil servant, and Ph.D. student and by Lokiru Cosma, a community member and research assistant to Weatherby. After Weatherby’s departure from Uganda subsequent to the rise of the Amin regime, the data was stored in Weatherby’s home in Javea, Spain. Weatherby’s main objective was to write an ethnohistorical account of Soo culture. He particularly emphasized oral history and religious practices.


Group represented

This deposit contains recordings of speakers of Soo and Nyangi. The varieties of Soo represented are predominantly those spoken around Katabok near Mount Kadam and in Lea Valley on Mount Moroto. The Nyangi data comes from the vicinity of Lobalangit on the western slopes of the Nyangea Mountains, the last settlement where Nyangi was used as a language of daily communication. Soo and Nyangi, along with Ik, are the last surviving members of the Kuliak language family, which was likely spoken more broadly before the onset of increasingly close contact with Southern Nilotic languages such as Pokot and Eastern Nilotic languages such as Karimojong starting about 1000 years ago. The ascendency of Karimojong in the plains of present-day Karamoja led Kuliak cultures to take refuge in outlying mountainous areas, where all three are found today. Today, most Soo and Nyangi people speak either Pokot or Karimojong.


Language information

Soo and Nyang’i are two members of the Kuliak (or Robic) language family, in which they are joined by a third language, Ik. Each of these languages is spoken in mountainous areas on the periphery of Karamoja region in northeastern Uganda. The external relatives of the Kuliak family are disputed. Many linguists suggest a relationship between Kuliak and the Nilo-Saharan phylum, although there is no consensus about if Kuliak should be part of a larger subgroup within Nilo-Saharan or if it is a primary branch. Other linguists argue that Kuliak should be treated as an independent family.

Both Soo and Nyang’i are at an advanced stage of language shift. There are an estimated 200 remaining speakers of Soo, most of whom live on the northern and eastern slopes of Mount Kadam. Some Soo speakers may additionally still be found in two valleys on Mount Moroto—Kakingol and Tapac. Nyang’i is no longer used as a language of regular communication, but one Nyang’i man has been identified who can use the language productively.


Special characteristics

This deposit is composed of field notes and audio and recordings made by John M. Weatherby in the 1960s and 1970s.


Collection contents

This collection will contain approximately 25 hours of audio recordings produced by John M. Weatherby and Lokiru Cosma between 1964 and 1973, as well as scans of John M. Weatherby’s field notes and professional correspondence relating to his research on Soo and Nyangi.


Collection history

The recordings and notes in this collection were made in the 1960s and 1970s by John M. Weatherby (1910-2003), a British art teacher and PhD student who was preparing a doctoral dissertation on the history and culture of the Soo. The materials have been stored at Weatherby’s home (which is still occupied by his daughter) in Spain since the Weatherbys fled Idi Amin’s regime in 1973. Samuel Beer, the principal investigator, began digitizing and transcribing the data in 2018.


Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of the collection should acknowledge Samuel J. Beer as the principal investigator and John M. Weatherby as the data collector. Users should also acknowledge the National Science Foundation Documenting Endangered Languages program as the funder of the project. Individual speakers whose words and/or images are used should be acknowledged by name. Any other contributor who has collected, transcribed, or translated the data or was involved in any other way should be acknowledged by name. All information on contributors is available in the metadata.

To refer to any data from the corpus, please cite the corpus in this way:

Beer, Samuel J. Forthcoming. Legacy Documentation of Soo and Nyangi from John M. Weatherby’s Field Notes and Audio Recordings. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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