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The Bom Language


Bom is a language closely related to Kim and was rumored to be spoken in the same area as Kim and thus originally appeared to be a relatively low-hanging target of this study. An encouraging sign during a pilot study in (Jan 2006) was that one of the eight people we interviewed claimed to be bilingual in Kim and Bom (Bete Masale; her mother was Bom). Virtually nothing was known about Bom, so documenting the language formed a project goal, albeit secondary to the goal of documenting Kim.

At this point in the investigation (July 2009) the Bom area has (regrettably) not been so fully studied as the Kim area. The reasons are several. First of all, the literature indicates that there are virtually no Bom speakers to be found. The language was not investigated in Iverson and Cameron 1986, but the Ethnologue states there are 250 speakers out of a 5,000 member ethnic group according to a 1991 source (Gordon 2005).

The language was said to be dead, and thus research on Bom was given a secondary place to the Kim documentation effort. As research on Kim proceeded, however, the project found that the language was plainly more vital than Kim, and research on Bom was undertaken in earnest only during the second year of the project.

Secondly, during the second year, the project entertained three sets of visitors who interrupted the focus on Bom. The first was a producer from the Voice of America (see below), the second was a set of students from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, and the third was a journalist from the New York Times/International Herald Tribune. All of these visits took away from the time that could be spent on fieldwork and analysis.

Finally, the DKB research headquarters had been established close to the core Kim-speaking area but relatively distant from the Bom-speaking area. Simply getting to the Bom area took a very long day and usually two – canoeing and walking to the Kim areas took only a half-day at most.