Encyclopédie des Pygmées Aka – Troisième Livre : Lexique alphabétique français-aka


This work is part of a series of monographs concerning the jungle populations of Central Africa, and in particular, the Pygmies. It is the first volume resulting from an interdisciplinary project based on a linguistic approach to the various aspects of Aka society. Language is here treated simultaneously as an aspect of the culture and as its “thesaurus” and vehicle. This work is the result of a cooperative effort by a group whose official existence dates from 1977, but which has been carrying on informally coordinated activities since 1971. It contains the results of research on the Aka Pygmies and their natural and human environment, conducted by representatives of several disciplines : linguistics, ethnology, ethnolinguistics, ethnosciences (ethnobotany, ethnozoology, ethnomedicine and ethnopharmacology), ecology and ethnomusicology.
The first volume contains a lengthy ethnological and linguistic introduction, a theoretical discussion of the dictionary and a practical initiation to its use. The first part of the dictionary itself contains about 10,000 Aka-French entries and a large number of linguistic, ethnological, naturalistic and graphic illustrations. The dictionary as a whole will also include a French-Aka section, a presentation by subject matter and a classification by category.
The Aka Pygmies are interesting from the linguistic, social and political standpoints : they have their own language, although it has evidently been borrowed from a Tall Black (Bantu C 10) population. Their relations with their surroundings nevertheless produce constant changes in their linguistic situation.
They are hunters and food gatherers and have a perfect knowledge of their jungle environment, to which they are undoubtedly better adapted than any of the other local populations. Although generally recognized as “masters of the jungle”, they might be assumed to lack a vocabulary referring to their environment, on the basis of the genetic classification of their language. The Bantus, to whom the Akas owe their language, are not, in fact, jungle populations. A comparative study of their vocabulary sheds a different light on this question.
The jungle, devastated by intensifying exploitation, now provides no more than an occasional and precarious refuge for the Akas. The balanced nature of their longstanding relations of exchange with the Tall Blacks has recently been modified, to their disadvantage. They have unwillingly become enmeshed in a process of socio-economic change and are rapidly tending toward the status of an exploited and disdained lumpen.
They nevertheless constitute one of the last surviving civilizations capable of living on their natural environment without destroing it.

This last volume, the alphabetical French-Aka lexicon, of 669 pages is both the culmination and the entry point into the Encyclopedia.
– It is a culmination because after the first 4 volumes of introduction and then the 11 volumes of the Aka-French ethnographic dictionary, published since 1981, in the phonological order of the language, the lexicon is the last volume that closes, after 37 years, this monumental undertaking of nearly 5000 pages and 7456 entries.
– It is an entry point because this encyclopedia brings together a large part of the knowledge that the Aka have of their world, their natural environment, their techniques, and their society, and because this entire sum of information, which is truly interdisciplinary, can only be truly questioned from the French-Aka lexicon, which refers to each Aka term in the dictionary (volume and page), with all its meanings and implications.
The book includes an introduction by Serge Bahuchet with contributions by Susanne Fürniss and Marie-Françoise Rombi, as well as a revised and completed bibliography

THOMAS Jacqueline M.C., S. Bahuchet, A. Epelboin et S. Fürniss (eds), 2018 [paru le 12 février 2019], Encyclopédie des Pygmées Aka III. Lexique alphabétique français-aka, Peeters, coll. Tradition Orale 50.3, SELAF 472, 669 p.

Published February 2019