Tiefo languages

Tiefo (pronounced [cɛfɔ]) is the name of an ethnicity that formerly occupied a broad network of villages south of Bobo Dioulasso in SW Burkina Faso. These villages are located on both sides of the cliffs running just to the east of the main Bobo to Banfora highway. The Tiefo were once a moderately significant military power, and there is still a war museum at Numudara (or Noumoudara) village. However, Tiefo forces were decimated in the Mossi wars. The only villages where Tiefo languages are still spoken are a) Nyafogo (Gnanfogo and other spellings), and b) the Daramandugu (Daramandougou, Dramandougou) village cluster which consists of several well-separated villages. I have provisionally used “Tiefo-N” and “Tiefo-D” to denote the two languages. “Tiefo-N” is apt since, in addition to Nyafogo, a closely related variety was spoken until recently in Numudara.

The Tiefo languages have been classified as on the periphery of Gur, i.e. not part of Central Gur and not closely related to any other Gur branch. This peripheral Gur status is also thought to apply to Viemo, to the two Toussiana languages, and to the language pair Natioro and Wara.

Prior to our project, the major work on Tiefo was an excellent 1998 dissertation in German on Tiefo-D phonology and morphology (and a little syntax), plus a lexical appendix, by Kerstin Winkelmann. In addition to her extended work on Tiefo-D, she did brief survey work on Tiefo-N of Numudara and Nyafogo, although she found only semi-speakers in Nyafogo.

Given the paucity of material on Tiefo-N, when my project learned that a few speakers were still available in Nyafogo, we undertook emergency fieldwork on it. “We” in this case is the team of myself, project member Abbie Hantgan, and Burkinabé graduate student Aminata Ouattara. The fieldwork had its delays and its ups and downs, but we were able to complete a short reference grammar based on work with the last two competent speakers. Funding was from the National Science Foundation, Documenting Endangered Languages program. Ouattara and I are now (2017) gearing up for a detailed study of Tiefo-D, funded by National Endowment for the Humanities.

      2017d         Jeffrey Heath, Aminata Ouattara & Abbie Hantgan. Short grammar of Tiefo-N of Nyafogo (Gur, Burkina Faso). Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
                                    DOI: 10.17617/2.2378140


[last update Nov 2017]

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