May 15, 2005: Headlines: COS - Senegal: Linguistics: Los Angeles Daily News: Senegal RPCV Rebecca Cover gets grant to record endangered language of Badiaranke

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Library: Peace Corps: Language and Linguistics: Peace Corp: Langauge and Linguistics: Newest Stories : May 10, 2005: Headlines: COS - Senegal: Linguistics: Patriot Ledger Quincy, Ma: RPCV Rebecca Cover returns to Senegal to record endangered language of Badiaranke : May 15, 2005: Headlines: COS - Senegal: Linguistics: Los Angeles Daily News: Senegal RPCV Rebecca Cover gets grant to record endangered language of Badiaranke

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Senegal RPCV Rebecca Cover gets grant to record endangered language of Badiaranke

Senegal RPCV Rebecca Cover gets grant to record endangered language of Badiaranke

Senegal RPCV Rebecca Cover gets grant to record endangered language of Badiaranke

A rescue mission

UC student gets grant to record endangered language

By Charles Burress San Francisco Chronicle

It's a wish come true for a University of California at Berkeley grad student with a rare taste in wishes.

A special grant announced earlier this month will allow Rebecca Cover to dodge malarial mosquitoes and live in a mud hut without electricity in a hot, humid and remote corner of Africa where, as the only white face in the village, she will attempt to communicate in a difficult language that most of the world has never heard of.

"It's very exciting, of course," said Cover, 26, a doctoral student in linguistics.

Cover's project is the only winner in Northern California among 39 grants and fellowships in a new federal program for threatened languages.

"This is a rescue mission to save endangered languages," National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Bruce Cole said in a joint statement by the NEH and the National Science Foundation. The agencies cited experts saying that more than 3,000 of the 6,000 to 7,000 languages now in use are approaching extinction.

The agencies awarded $4.4 million in their new Documenting Endangered Languages partnership.

Cover's $17,767 grant will record and analyze Badiaranke, an unwritten tongue spoken by an estimated 12,000 people where three countries meet -- Senegal, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

Although tiny in the number of users, Badiaranke belongs to the world's largest family of languages, Niger-Congo, which consists of between 1,200 and 1,500 different tongues, said UC linguistics Professor Larry Hyman, sponsor of Cover's proposal.

"We're very, very pleased," Hyman said. "A huge number of people applied."

"She (Cover) is very distinguished," he said, adding that she had come into linguistics after receiving her undergraduate degree in astrophysics at Williams College, where she was valedictorian. Two of her letters of recommendation "said she was their best student in 30 years," Hyman said.

Cover said she had embarked on linguistics because of a desire to work with endangered languages, an interest that began when she served two years in the Peace Corps as a health education volunteer in Senegal.

"When you lose a language," she said in a telephone interview from her family home in Sharon, Mass., "you're not just losing the language, which in itself has great value from a scientific, linguistic perspective, but from a cultural perspective as well.

"A lot of the culture is embedded in the language. When a language dies, part of the culture dies, too."

Cover got a foretaste of her project last year when she spent nearly two months in the 487- person, Badiaranke-speaking village of Paroumba in Senegal.

"Everybody thought I was crazy when I went last year," she said. "I didn't know where I was going, and people in the village didn't know I was coming.

"The Badiaranke people there are really encouraging. I had this wonderful mud hut to myself. Every time I stepped outside, they'd say, 'Where's your notebook? Write this down."'

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Story Source: Los Angeles Daily News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Senegal; Linguistics



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