A documentation of the remnant Baka-Gundi language Limassa

A documentation of the remnant Baka-Gundi language Limassa

Language: Limassa
Depositor: Benedikt Winkhart
Location: Republic of Congo
Deposit Id: 0437
Grant id: SG0452, IGS0313
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit

This collection aims at documenting Limassa, a language of the Baka-Gundi branch of the Mundu-Baka family and currently classified as Ubangi. In being the only securely known non-pygmy variety in the Baka-Gundi branch, Limassa may be the direct source of the Baka pygmy language complex. The estimated number of speakers is 40-45. Limassa is undescribed; only three small vocabularies exist, two of which are more than a hundred years old. The central goal of this project is a thorough linguistic study aiming at an extensive and diverse data corpus.

In order to determine its degree of endangerment the collection contains a systematic assessment of the current demographic and sociolinguistic status of the language. To this end, questionnaires on biographical/personal information in meta-language are included. This is expanded to non-Limassa speakers in order to compile information on the socio- and ethnolinguistic profile of Bomassa and address the multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic character of its population. Each biography is supplemented by photographs of the participant.

All data is collected by Benedikt Winkhart, linguist and principal investigator behind the documentation project and the members of the speaker communities themselves.

Group represented

Main target language (spoken by the Bomassa people): Limassa (Ubangi)

Other languages spoken in Bomassa village: Ngombe-Baka (Ubangi), Ngundi (Bantu), Mabenjele-Aka (Bantu), Pomo (Bantu), Sango (Ubangi), Lingala (Bantu)

Limassa is spoken mainly in Bomassa on the Sangha River in the north of the Republic of the Congo. It is the traditional settlement of the Bomassa, who are accepted as the founders of this village. The village exists since 1920 and was originally called Ngolio (‘eagel’). Today it has ca. 400 inhabitants. The population of the village is multi-ethnic as well as multi-linguistic Further languages spoken in the village are the closely related Ngombe-Baka as well as the Bantu languages Ngundi and Mabenjele-Aka. According to several accounts, speakers may also be located outside Bomassa In the first half of the 20th century some Bomassa founded smaller settlements and fishing camps on the Sangha between Ouesso and Bayanga - Some of these settlements still exist today, e.g. Mombongo, Bounda and Molongodi. Furthermore, there is evidence of occasional encounters with speakers on the Cameroonian side of the Sangha.

Special characteristics

The collection includes recordings of short word lists (based on the Leipzig-Jakarta List) for the purpose of a detailed phonological analysis. Lexical items are recorded in isolation as well as in a short phrase. The collection includes also audio and video recorded questionnaires on morpho-syntactic features, i.e. elicited grammatical structures and peer stories, as well as audio-visual recordings of personal biographical information (speakers introducing themselves) as well as natural language use in descriptive/explanatory texts (kitchen, handicraft, flora, fauna, etc.) and dialogues.

This deposit consists of material collected in the village of Bomassa as well as the two neighboring villages Boncoin (ca. 5km upstream, population: ca. 100) and Kabo (ca. 35km downstream, population: ca. 850).

Other information
Other Information

File names

ISO 639-3_initials of researcher*_short form of participant(s)-name(s)**_code for type of recording***_number

Ex. for Limassa: BME_BW_BoSy_E_001

*The principal investigator is Benedikt Winkhart. Some recordings have been conducted by Winkhartʼs assistant Boyima Sylvan. These recordings have been supervised and are labelled with the initials of both parties (BW and BS). **The short forms of participants names are listed in the excel file on the collected biographic information on the inhabitants of Bomassa village. ***The codes for record types are listed among technical abbreviations.

Technical abbreviations

B biography C conversation CON consent recording D dictionary DI deposit information E elicitation L lore (and explanation) N narrative VD village documentation WD workplace documentation / after a word or phrase in transcription indicates an interrupted speech flow or repetition.

Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of the deposit should acknowledge Benedikt Winkhart as the data collector and principal investigator. Users should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme the funding body of the project. Furthermore, individual speakers whose words and/or images are used should be acknowledged by name and any other contributors who collected, transcribed or translated the data should be acknowledged by name. All information on contributors is available in the metadata.

The following citation format can be used:

Winkhart, Benedikt. 2016. A documentation of the remnant Baka-Gundi language Limassa. London, SOAS: Endangered Languages Archive. URL:https://elar.soas.ac.uk/Collection/MPI1035153. Accessed on [insert date here].


Collection online
Resources online and curated


Benedikt Winkhart
Affiliation: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2021 January 27 to 2021 January 27
Deposit hits:1
Downloaded files
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Showing 1 - 10 of 193 Items

Recorded on: 2017-10-26

Recorded on: 2016-12-05

In this video chief Mobolambi Gabriel tells the tale of the founding of the village. An eagle had its nest on a big tree. A smart fisherman noticed that the eagle drops a lot of fish everytime he feeds his young. He decides to settle below the eagles nest. This is why the village is called Ngolio (=eagle) in the Limassa language. Boyima Sylvan is in the video with chief Mobolambi Gabriel because the chief had a hard time with being filmed at the begining of my stay in Bomassa.

Recorded on: 2016-12-19

This video shows the final appearance of a forest spirit. It is after the women with leaves on her dress. She tries to tease but avoit it, as it is dangerous. At the and, Ngama Rene explains the meaning of this particular dance.

Recorded on: 2016-12-07

In this video, Souo Guy talks about his life in Kabo and his work as a fisherman. He just came back from work and was a bit tired when we recorded this.

Recorded on: 2016-12-29

This morpho-syntactic questionnaire has been establishes for a fieldtrip to Bomassa, Congo in the period between 10/2016-01/2017 for the purpose of testing the Limassa language for relevant diagnostic feature known to exist in the closest related languages of the Mundu-Baka sub-branch Baka-Gundi, as well as members of the family’s other sub-branches.

Recorded on: 2016-12-29

Recorded on: 2017-10-21

Recorded on: 2017-10-21

Recorded on: 2017-11-21

Recorded on: 2017-11-20