Research Articles

Building community participation into documentation design: lessons learned in Sakun (Sukur)

  • Michael F. Thomas


A successful language documentation project needs to balance the sometimes conflicting goals of all the project stakeholders in order to enhance everyone’s desired outcomes. Linguists have a wide range of motivations for archiving and analyzing languages, many of which have little to do with community goals of maintenance and development. It is argued here that while documentation and development goals may not always be one and the same, the goals of this documentation project are necessary precursors to the attainment of the Sakun community’s development goals. The participation of community members in the documentation provides the link for the community to take the results of the documentation and apply them to community initiated development efforts.

This paper reports on the ongoing language documentation project at the UNESCO Sukur World Heritage Site, in Adamawa state, Nigeria, and the attempt to balance these potentially divergent motivations by integrating the community into the documentation project at a number of levels. The success of this project is the result of collaborative efforts between the local community and the researcher, support from representatives of a range of cultural and political organizations at the local, state and national level in Nigeria, and funding from the Hans...

Keywords: language documentation, documentation design, community participation, Sakun, Sukur, Nigeria

How to Cite:

Thomas, M., (2014) “Building community participation into documentation design: lessons learned in Sakun (Sukur)”, Language Documentation and Description 11, 59-71. doi:

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Published on
31 Jul 2014
Peer Reviewed