Congratulations to Professor Jeffrey Heath, who recently received a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his work on language documentation.

Professor Heath will do fieldwork on the Bozo languages of Mali, a branch of the large Mande family. Heath has been doing fieldwork on languages of interior West Africa since 1990, most recently on Tiefo (Burkina Faso) and Pere (Côte d'Ivoire). The project will start in October 2020. Photo: Kargue Village, courtesy of JH.

Read the abstract below. 

Documentation of Bozo languages of Mali
By Jeffrey Heath


Central Mali is a justly famous ethnic and linguistic relic zone including the Dogon and the mysterious Bangande, both of whom occupy the cliffs of the Dogon (Bandiagara) Plateau. The middle Niger R. itself is dominated by Songhay (Timbuktu, Gao, Hombori). There are pockets of Fulbe cattle herders scattered throughout. The languages spoken by these groups are now reasonably well-described. This leaves the Bozo and their languages. The Bozo are the classic fishing people of the floodplains of the middle Niger, occupied year-round by catching and drying fish for sale and by ancillary activities such as boat-building. There is also one Bozo population that engage in farming along the cliffs, neighboring the Dogon and Bangande.

Bozo languages form a subdivision of the large Mande family, which also includes a major West African lingua franca and several languages near the Atlantic coast, as well as several to the east of Mali. This project will focus squarely on the Bozo languages, which are largely undescribed. The products will be reference grammars, lexical spreadsheets, transcribed and translated recordings, and relevant images and documentary videos.