Monday, August 29, 2005

words and "development"

I received the following text message last week: "pour un avenir meilleur, scolarisons tous nos enfants. Message UNICEF/MTN." In English, that's: "for a better future, let's put all our children in school. From UNICEF and MTN [a cell-phone company]." Thought provoking on many levels, no?

My fellow linguistics nerds may care to know that Medumba has what are sometimes called "verbal adjectives." These are words that, based on their semantics, speakers of European languages would expect to be adjectives, but "behave like" verbs; i.e., they head clauses, are inflected for tense and aspect, take nominal complements. An example of this is the word "zi," which in free translation means "big," but in literal translation is closer to "to be big." I don't know why, but I've always found verbal adjectives fun. So far, it seems to me that colours, anyway, are adjectives, but I may have a lot more to learn about adjectives and verbs yet. We'll see.

Monday, August 15, 2005

anthropology of anthropologists

I travelled to Yaounde, Cameroon's capitol, recently to attend the annual conference of the Pan-African Anthropology Association. There were only two other linguistic anthropologists. Coincidentally, there was a Cameroonist there who's a PhD-candidate at the University of Toronto.

One of the panels was composed of chiefs from across the continent speaking on their ideas and strategies for good governance. This panel ended 4 hours late. A big part of the reason for that is that no one is in a position to say to a chief, "your time is up, we have to move on to the next speaker." Culture is everywhere.

While in the city, I splurged on a couple of moderately pricey restaurant meals. For one of them, I had pizza, which was fun. Cheese is really not available in this region except in restaurants.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

small centre

Lately, people whom I don't think I've ever seen before have been coming up to me and coaching me in Medumba. Today, someone asked me if I was "Monsieur Simon." I was then able to overhear her and her friends confirming that I was indeed the white guy who's learning Medumba. I hope this means that Bangangte is a small enough place that word simply gets around quickly. This would make my research easier. Regardless, it's nice that people are so friendly. Not much of blogworthiness has happened lately; I'm just slowly improving my language skills.

The people who are kindly putting me up watch a lot of American movies (dubbed into French) on their VCD player. VCD is like DVD except poorer quality, and lower capacity; feature-length films require two disks. When I left the house this morning, "In Hell" starring Jean-Claude van Damme was on - not exactly my thing. "My Best Friend's Wedding" wasn't so bad, though, and I genuinely enjoyed "The Devil's Advocate" with Charlize Theron, Keanu Reeves, and Al Pacino.