Federal grant expected to boost KU’s reputation as hub for African studies

photo by: Courtesy University of Kansas

Assistant Professor of Linguistics John Gluckman, right, met with Kinyamulenge speaker Justin Ngirabakunzi in the Kansas City area as part of a new grant-funded program.

A University of Kansas professor hopes a new federal grant will help KU become a hub for the study of an African language family and bring more Africans to the university as well.

John Gluckman, an assistant professor of linguistics at KU, has won a $320,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study Bantu, a family of languages spoken throughout central, southern and east Africa.

The money, Gluckman said via a press release, primarily will be used to bring African students to KU, where they can provide their expertise on Bantu languages, while also receiving linguistic instruction from KU.

KU already operates the Kansas African Studies Center and the Department of African & African American Studies. Gluckman said adding expertise in the Bantu language family could further KU’s status as an education hub for understanding of the African continent.

“We’re trying to build this up,” Gluckman said in the release.

Gluckman’s research will focus on a particular branch of the Bantu language family that is frequently used in eastern Africa, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Part of the three-year grant program involves KU doing more outreach with refugees from the Congo who are living in the Kansas City area. Those refugees will help Gluckman and other researchers better understand the languages.

“Linguists recognize that it’s very important to document these communities and their languages, which are not as endangered as some other languages, but they’re definitely in danger of dying out within a few generations,” Gluckman said.

Part of the project will include recording stories in the Bantu languages, so that children of refugees who have located in America can start reading and hearing stories in their native languages.

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