Endangered Language Alliance
Ikota is classified by linguists as a Northwest Bantu language of zone B, within Africa’s massive Niger-Congo language family. Several dialects are mentioned in the literature, including Ndambomo, Ikota-la-hua; Sake, Menzambi, Bougom, and Mahongwé, although the latter is understood by some (e.g. Jacquot 1978, Sima Mve 1990) to be a distinct language. The Mahongwé variety is primarily spoken, probably by a few thousand people at most, in the Mékambo area of Gabon and also between Makokou and Okondja in Gabon’s Haut-Ogooué province. Outsiders may know about the famous masks made by Mahongwé artists.
In the fall 2013, ELA director Daniel Kaufman led a class of 25 students at Columbia University in the documentation and description of Ikota, with our collaborator from Mekambo.
ELA volunteers who have contributed substantially to the project since then include kevin Kwong, who has annotated several texts, and Greg Feliu, who is describing the sound system of the language.
A modified Swadesh list with possessors and plurals can be heard below.
The growing corpus of recordings made in class and small group sessions is updated regularly and can be browsed below. Key edited texts are in the Youtube playlist above, with subtitles forthcoming.