Between 19th and 23rd January 1999, Bruce Connell and I made a field trip to the Mambila Plateau to try and complete the lects in the Mambila database. A more comprehensive report will be published later; this is a first summary. The data has all been tape-recorded and will only be analysed when Bruce returns to England in mid-March.
The first trip was to Zongo Ajiya, to visit the Mvanip people. (the i is a bar i) This is the correct name, not Mvano. Far from being 'less than 10,000' as it says in INL, there are only 100 (chief's estimate) living in one quarter of Z/A. Despite this, the language seems to be alive -the Jauro assured us that all the children still speak it, which appears to be true. A long wordlist was taped but there is not doubt this is the same language given in Meek as Magu.
When we asked for the language closest to Mvanip, to our surprise, we were given the name of the Ndunda people. Ndunda is a village some 5km. from Yerimaru, past Kakara on the tea estate road. And indeed, when we went there on the following day, it turns out there are a people and language of this name whose existence seems so far to have entirely eluded the reference books. Their language resembles Mvanip but the two are sufficiently distinct as to be regarded as separate languages. We also took a limited amount of historical data. There are probably 3-400 speakers of Ndunda. The language appears still to be alive and well.
We wanted to reach Antere, beyond Ndunda, as the exact language spoken there is unknown. However, the road has now collapsed and we gave up that project. However, we were able to contact Antere people in Yerimaru, and were told, much to our surprise, there are five languages spoken in Antere, in different quarters. These are:
We were able to get a wordlist of this last and it is definitely a Grassfields language -but of what type and whether it is new cannot yet be known. As for the other three we guess they may also be Grassfields although there is absolutely no evidence for this except proximity. But they all seem to be spoken in Nigeria and should thus be added to the list of Nigerian languages.
The next day, we returned to Z/A to get a wordlist of Ndola, which is the preferred name of the Ndoro people. We also returned to the Jauro for a historical account of the Mvanip. The final day we were able to complete a wordlist of Barup a Mambila lect thus far unrecorded.
We learnt that although a bible translation was completed in 1975, it has hardly ever been used and that the literacy programme is presently moribund. However, SIL is apparently intending to send literacy personnel to the Plateau to revive it.
The whole trip went without a hitch and we are very grateful for everyone who gave up their time to help us.