News Article

SIL releases The Kifuliiru Language, Volumes 1 and 2

“This monumental reference work represents one of the most comprehensive grammars of any East African Bantu language. It combines masses of data and examples with linguistic argumentation and statements about all the basic topics to be expected in this kind of grammar… [as well as] topics not always adequately covered in conventional grammars…

“These two volumes would be a valuable addition to any Africanist’s or linguist’s bookshelf, appealing to several audiences. The general reader will find it very useful for reference and general interest. Theoretical linguists will find material and discussion for many current topics. Comparativists will find it a useful source for information on many topics.”

- From the preface by noted Bantuist
Derek Nurse



Above: Roger and Karen Van Otterloo;
testing a primer with literacy students in 1985.

(August 2011) SIL International announces the publication of a two-volume set providing a comprehensive description of Kifuliiru. This ground-breaking work thoroughly documents the structures and processes of this Bantu (Zone J) language. Kifuliiru is spoken by the approximately 400,000 members of the Bafuliiru community, whose homeland is in the Uvira Territory on the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Volume 1 of The Kifuliiru Language, written by Karen Van Otterloo, addresses tone, phonology, and morphological derivation. Volume 2, written by Roger Van Otterloo, serves as a descriptive grammar of the language. This is a pivotal time in the history of the Kifuliiru language. Roger Van Otterloo notes that French is increasingly used by the younger generation. Even when Kifuliiru is spoken, the young often overlay French grammatical structure, endangering the rich morphology of the traditional language. For this reason, the publication of this description is all the more timely, an opinion expressed by Kifuliiru Language Association President Elie Mushonio Banyimwire Rusati and Kifuliiru project director Phanuel Kibambazi Zihindula in their foreword to the work:

“This linguistic book is like a big sickle to help the Bafuliiru harvest the riches of their language. Between its covers the essence of Kifuliiru is described at all levels, with all the original nuances. This will help all those writing the language to write with a pleasing style. Our desire is to adapt parts of this book into a form from which all the Bafuliiru people can benefit. This includes writing books for teaching the Kifuliiru language and culture in the primary schools. A Writer’s Manual has also been produced, based on this grammar, for all who are interested in producing authentic literature that is sweet and clear.”

Both Roger and Karen Van Otterloo earned the degree of MA in Linguistics from the University of Texas at Arlington. Roger has been a member of SIL International since 1973 and Karen since 1975. The Van Otterloos’ work reflects years of cultural experience which adds depth and value to their analysis. They have worked with the Eastern Congo Group of SIL since 1980 and lived with their family in the Kifuliiru-speaking area of what was then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) from 1980-1996. Since 1998 they have lived in Nairobi, Kenya, and Roger travels frequently to the DRC.


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