Forthcoming: A grammar of Sherbro

G. Tucker Childs  


This is the first modern grammar and dictionary of Sherbro, an endangered Mel language spoken by ca. 50,000 people in Sierra Leone. The language faces significant pressure being abandoned in favor of the lingua francas Mende, Themne, Krio, and English. The previous grammar, while competently done, was written in 1921 as a handbook for missionaries. The autonym for the language is Bolom; however, speakers of the language while speaking Krio or English use “Sherbro” to refer to themselves and their language, so that practice is followed here. The grammar and dictionary are based on field data collected as part of a four-year research project (2016-2020), “Documenting the Sherbro Language and Culture,” funded by the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Documentation Programme. An archive of the project is permanently housed by the Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR), including the FLEx database, more than 30 glossed transcriptions and more than 150 recordings. This book is intended as a resource for linguists and Sherbro speakers, learners, and educators.

Author Biography

G. Tucker Childs

G. Tucker Childs (1948-2021) was professor emeritus at Portland State University where he taught for over 25 years. He previously held positions at University of Toronto, University of Witwatersrand, Temple University, and San Jose State University. He holds degrees from Stanford University (A.B.), Trinity College (Dipl.), University of Virginia (M.Ed.), Georgetown University (M.S.), and University of California, Berkeley (M.A., Ph.D.). Childs dedicated his career to the documentation and preservation of endangered West African languages and their cultures. During his 40-year career, he produced grammars, dictionaries, readers, and primers, as well as numerous academic articles, on the languages of the Bolom-Kisi group, which includes Kisi (1995, 2000), Mani (2007, 2009), Bom-Kim (2009, 2020), and Sherbro (the current volume), which was completed in 2020 just before his death. He was awarded the Linguistic Society of America’s Kenneth L. Hale Award, which recognizes scholars who have done outstanding work on the documentation of a language or family of languages that is endangered or no longer spoken. In his fieldwork, Childs went beyond standard elicitation information, placing greater emphasis on naturally occurring conversational data and on more nuanced descriptions of socio-cultural settings and the impact of language policy and planning.

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June 13, 2023
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Cite as
Childs, G. Tucker. Forthcoming. A grammar of Sherbro. (African Language Grammars and Dictionaries). Berlin: Language Science Press.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.