Archives for the month of: May, 2015

We’ve come to the half-way point in our four-week tone orthography workshop here in Jos, Nigeria. I’m working with five Gworok speakers to develop a way of representing tone in their newly developed writing system. I’ve never heard anything quite like this language, with its contrastive single and double labialization, palatalization and spirantization. And an elusive tone system where the patterns seem to twist and turn as we listen to them. Two speakers frequently pronounce words with different tones, and a single speaker sometimes pronounces tones one way on Monday and another on Tuesday. We’ll get to the bottom of it, but we’re not there yet…


During one of our morning devotions at the workshop, someone suggested we should pray for rain.

Then one of the older Nigeria participants stood up and said “First, we should go out and plant ten trees for every one we have cut down, then ask God’s forgiveness for not taking care of the environment, then, yes, by all means, let’s pray for rain.”

Jos used to be the centre of the Nigerian tin mining industry, and the Anglican church here is called St Piran’s.

Missed a link in the chain: I got the visa because I was issued a Togolese residency card in a record-breaking three weeks. Dropped by at the minister’s house Friday to thank him for intervening on my behalf. He and his wife opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

The residency card is only valid for a year. But the good news is I can apply for a 3-year one once I’ve had three 1-year ones; and I can apply for a 10-year one once I’ve had six 3-year ones. Please remind me when I’m 76.

This afternoon, after submitting 25 supporting documents over the past month, I was finally granted a Nigerian visa. I fly on Saturday, and we begin the tone orthography workshop on Monday. Hurray.

This time next week is my cut-off date for getting a Togolese Residency Card that will enable me to apply for a Nigerian visa in Togo. If I don’t get it, plan B is to fly with a London stop over, to apply for a visa at the Nigerian Embassy there. That’s not as crazy as it sounds: It’s not uncommon for journeys from one African country to another to go via Europe, and in any case, I was already considering a brief trip to the nearby country of Cornwall.

The workshop coordinator writes: “Dave’s participation in this tone orthography workshop is very important to us as he is closely understudying the course leader’s methodology in preparation for servicing language communities around West Africa as a tone orthography specialist. He has already documented the workshop in detail in French at a workshop in Cameroon in January and our workshop will give him the opportunity to do the same in English. Additionally, it will give him needed exposure to the phonological complexity often found in many Benue-Congo languages spoken in our region.”