Document Type


Publication Date



Language obsolescence -- Liberia, Language obsolescence -- Sierra Leone, Language obsolescence -- Guinea, Globalization -- Effect on indigenous peoples


Observers have become increasingly aware of how the world is changing due to the forces of globalization, be it in the form of neo-colonialism, the scramble for natural resources, or the various extractive industries. The recent alarm over Ebola illustrated another pernicious fallout of increased communication and travel. The effect of globalization has also been great on indigenous peoples and their cultures, in particular on what many consider to be an integral component of culture, the local languages.

I report on recent research devoted to the documentation of endangered languages in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia (the Ebola countries). Most of these languages stand little chance of survival as their only speakers are elderly, and no children are learning the languages. The one exception is Mani, a language spoken along the Guinean and Sierra Leone littoral, and on one tidal island where children actually grow up speaking the language. Unfortunately, as they grow older, they prefer using the more widely spoken languages and soon shift to Mende, Temne, and Krio, widely spoken languages also favored by the government. I report on a recent effort at encouraging local literacy with the children in one Mani village on that island.

Returning to a broader focus, I turn to a general look at the future of these and related languages. After discussing the consequences of civil wars and general civil unrest in these countries, I conclude by speculating on how the Ebola epidemic may affect the future of the less widely spoken languages.


Presented at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty Research Brown Bag Seminar Series at Portland State University.

Persistent Identifier