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Sounds of Loma January 14, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Lifelong Learning, Online Tools.

audacity   One of the great rules when camping and hiking is to try to leave the land a little better than when you entered it. I had the opportunity to do just that on Friday.

One of my colleagues, Jacques, comes from Guinea. He has been at the College for a few years and now that all his course work is complete, he seriously needs to finish writing his dissertation. One of the key elements of his work deals with the transmission of a very old Guinean dialect called Loma.

Loma is a language with only the beginnings of a standardized alphabet but that is not stopping Jacques and several of his scholarly compatriots. The written Loma language can be found in old documents and painted onto the sides of buildings in rural Guinea but it is dying a very slow death.

Jacques came to me a few years back with a document he had brought with him that had notes for a complete Loma alphabet. We copied the letters as best we could and posted them online for other scholars to examine. The problem is that the letter sizes and shapes were sometimes different from those found in other sources. We hoped to work out a kind of “average? shape for each of the letters based on the ones we were finding.

The next step, one that we abandoned, was to use a program like fontographer to create a typographic program for computers so documents could be translated with greater each and reproduced against some sort of standard. We still want to do that someday but it will have to wait.

An example of Loma

Yesterday, Jacques handed me a key piece of the Loma puzzle, an old audiocassette he made of his mother speaking. Some parts of it were of very poor quality and quite washed out. I used a freeware program called Audacity, from SourceForge, to capture the audio tracks and amplify and clean up the parts that needed it. Jacques will now have a version of his mother’s voice in MP3 format for use in his research.  

 Just like in camping and hiking, I think I left this part of the world of research a little better than I had found it. 



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