With the help of UWOFA, Olga Kharytonava travels to Angola to document and save indigenous language

Languages play a crucial role in our daily life, not only as a means of communication but as a repository for our identity, culture, history, and traditions, and yet languages around the world continue to disappear at an astonishing rate. In 2019, the United Nations recognized the urgent need to document the world’s indigenous languages by declaring it The Year of Indigenous Languages.

This year UWOFA’s Contract Faculty Research and Professional Development Fund awarded funds to Olga Kharytonava to continue her work with the Kimbundu Research Project (kimbundu.ca) in Angola. Established in 2017, the Contract Faculty Research and Professional Development Fund supports UWOFA contract faculty members in professional development activities, academic conferences and research.

Kharytonava’s research focuses on Kimbundu, an aboriginal language of Angola with only 2 million self-identified speakers. Researchers suspect that the number of active speakers is actually much smaller, as many people were forced to abandon Kimbundu and speak Portuguese during the civil war which raged between 1975 and 2002. With most speakers now very elderly, it’s easy to understand how Kimbundu is headed toward extinction.

At its current stage, Kimbundu is largely undocumented and unknown to the linguistic community. The Kimbundu Research Project aims to describe the language with dialectal variation, formulate and verify existing hypotheses about language structure and store the data digitally in an archive for linguists and anthropologists.

Kharytonava’s award from UWOFA will help cover a portion of the fieldwork she conducted in Angola in 2018-2019 and travel to the 50th Annual Conference on African Linguistics. She hopes that the analyzed recordings of Kimbundu will be uploaded to Western’s Archive of Dialects and Languages, and on the kimbundu.ca website.

"We are proud to support the important research of our contract academic colleagues like Olga Kharytonava. Their work is integral to the life of Western, and their award-winning research expertise can only enhance our students' learning experience," said John Ciriello, UWOFA president.

UWOFA would like to congratulate all the 2019 recipients of its Contract Faculty Research and Professional Development Fund

  • Robert Barney (Health Sciences)
  • Pejman Habibie (Education)
  • Olga Kharytonava (Arts & Humanities)
  • Khoa Nguyen (Science)
  • Karyn Olsen (Social Science)
  • Shannon Potter (Social Science)

About the UWOFA Contract Faculty Research and Professional Development Fund

UWOFA provides $5,000 in funding each year, of which $2,500 is available for limited-term members and $2,500 is available for part-time members. A call for applications goes out every spring. Visit the UWOFA Contract Faculty Research and Professional Development Fund page for the list of funding recipients.