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Documentation of Kam: Natural interaction, multimodality, and community-driven ethnographic documentation

Deposit page image for the collection 'Documention of Kam: Natural interaction, multimodality, and community-driven ethnographic documentation'

The Kamajim mountain. Landing page image for the collection ‘ Documentation of Kam: Natural interaction, multimodality, and community-driven ethnographic documentation’. Click on image to access collection.


Language Kam (ISO639-3:kdx)
Depositor Jakob Lesage
Affiliation Humboldt Universität Berlin
Location Nigeria
Collection ID 0652
Grant ID IPF0314
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

Kam is a high-level Niger-Congo isolate, spoken by a community of mountain dwelling farmer-fishermen in Central-eastern Nigeria (ca. 8,000-11,000 speakers). This project has two aims. The first is to establish a corpus of language use in natural interaction, including multimodal communication, while exploring the role sand may play in speakers’ gesture space. The second is to document ethnographically interesting texts and performances, focusing on traditional knowledge speakers wish to preserve. Throughout, but especially for the second aim of the project, it will rely on extensive collaboration with speakers from different generations, to strengthen the intergenerational transmission of such knowledge.


Group represented

Kam is spoken in the Benue valley, in Bali Local Government Area, Taraba State, Nigeria. Speakers call themselves “ɲí ŋwɔ̀m” and their language and culture “àŋwɔ̀m”. Traditionally, the Kam were mountain dwellers who, according to oral tradition, settled in the mountains north of the Kam River more than one thousand years ago. Kamajim, the traditional capital of the Kam country, is located at the western feet of these mountains. This is still the place where the traditional king of the Kam resides. It is off-limits to outsiders and guarded by Sarkin Dawa, the political king of the Kam, who arranges political matters and settles issues with other ethnic groups. Many Kam are farmers and fishermen. Their most important crop is guinea corn, but rice, maize, beans and potatoes are also grown. The lion is an important symbol to the Kam, and lions are said to still dwell in the mountains, as guards to the Kam traditional king. The Kam claim close association with the Jukun and the Jukun kingdom of Kororofa. The Jukun speak a distantly related language.


Special characteristics

The depositor and community started this project in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the documentation presented here will be collected by speakers and annotated in close collaboration between the depositor and the community. The documentation process is adapted to the lifestyle and time schedule of the community and the consultants, and is independent of the physical presence of a researcher. This opens up a wide range of social situations and daily activities that can be recorded in their natural setting.


Collection contents

This project aims to collect 50 hours of recorded speech, performance and interaction. 5 hours will be transcribed and translated into English by consultants and 2.5 hours will contain interlinear glosses. 50 minutes of the collected data will contain gesture annotation.
The project will cover a variety of genres, including instructional texts and demonstrations of traditional practices, oral tradition told by multiple speakers, folk stories, casual everyday interaction, child-parent interaction, traditional games, political interaction, traditional celebrations and naming ceremonies.


Collection history

The project begins in March 2021. Currently, the depositor and community are coordinating training sessions and acquiring equipment.


Acknowledgement and citation

Jakob Lesage is the principal investigator of this project. The speakers who will record most of the data are Babangida Audu, Solomon Ahmadu, Danjuma Bello and Rahab Precious Garba. Isa Sarkin Dawa, the political king of Kam, has played a major role in raising interest in this project in the Kam community. Elisha Yuhana teaches the consultants to use recording equipment. Ibiem Abraham Msugh provides logistic support. Bitrus Andrew provides annotation training. Corpus users should acknowledge the data collector and the individuals whose speech or image is used. Their names can be found in the metadata. When using any data from the collection, please cite the collection as follows:

Lesage, Jakob. 2022. Documentation of Kam: Natural interaction, multimodality, and community-driven ethnographic documentation. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert data here].

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