19986 rememberers (2000)
Rare Languages: The Least Spoken Languages of the World
Njerep (Njerup) is one of the Niger-Congo languages spoken in the Adamawa Region of Cameroon. Njerep is essentially Extinct, with a handful of people who remember bits of it, but who cannot speak it. Though word lists and grammatical information have been collected from these people, the information remains fragmented.
- Rare Languages The Least Spoken Languages of the World
- General information
- History of the Njerep people
- Language affiliations
- History of scholarship
- Word lists and grammar
Njerep is considered a critically endangered language under the UNESCO language endangerment index. Research conducted in 2000 indicates that only six speakers of this language remain, all of whom reside in the Somié village located along the Nigeria-Cameroon border (6°28' N, 11° 27' E). Of these six speakers, only one remains conversant in the language. The others have been reported to be less proficient than even a semi-speaker. The youngest of the speakers were born in the 1940s, and it appears unlikely that Njerep will survive past the current generation. Njerep is no longer a language of casual conversation. Instead, it is most often used for joking or for maintaining secrecy in conversation. According to a study in 2007, only 4 people spoke this language. All of them were elderly. The Ba lect of the Mambila language, also known as Mvop, has instead supplanted Njerep in casual use.
History of the Njerep people
Though the Njerep people currently reside in Somié village, it is widely understood that the Njerep immigrated to that location. Geographically, Somié village is located on the Tikar Plain of Cameroon. The approximately 2,500 inhabitants of Somié are not only Njerep, but also a wide variety of immigrant groups including the Liap, Ndeba, and Mvop people. Though oral accounts of how these groups immigrated to the Tikar plain are often contradictory, it appears that three or four waves of immigration led to the population of this area. It is likely that the Njerep people immigrated to the Tikar Plain from some region of the Adamawa Plateau, possibly from the Djeni Mountain (also shown as Aigue Mboundo on some maps).
Njerep falls under the broad classification of one of the Mambiloid languages. Mambila, the largest language in the Mambiloid grouping, has approximately twenty different dialects, loosely divided into East Mambila and West Mambila dialect clusters. Linguistic analysis suggests that Njerep may fall under the East Mambila cluster. However, it remains contested whether or not Njerep and its related languages should comprise its own unique grouping.
History of scholarship
Intense efforts to record and characterize Njerep began in 2000. However, by the year 2000, Njerep had already been in terminal decline for some time. Thus, knowledge of Njerep vocabularies and grammars remains quite fragmentary. Unfortunately, the lack of fluent speakers makes it unlikely that the incomplete record will ever be significantly amended.
Word lists and grammar
A comprehensive guide to Njerep vocabulary and grammar has been published and is freely available.