Andre Batchelder-Schwab

Summer in the Field Fellow, 2023

Ph.D. Candidate, Linguistics, Boston University
M.A., Comparative Politics, New York University
B.A., Linguistics & German, New York University

Andre Batchelder-Schwab is a Summer in the Field Fellow, 2023 and a Ph.D. candidate in the Linguistics program at Boston University. He is also a research assistant at the Boston University Northern Pomo Lab, conducting tonal and syntactic analysis of records.

For his Summer in the Field Fellowship, Andre will conduct interviews and linguistic experiments to research how whistled TshiVenda, a whistled language in South Africa and Zimbabwe, works at a technical and conversational level between VhaVenda people in the village of Nzhelele in Limpopo province. This summer he will research how sounds are encoded into whistled Tshivenda, how much is understood, and its contextual cultural relevance. The whistled register of TshiVenda is reportedly a crucial component of initiation rites, as a mandatory curricular component which boys must pass in order to fully matriculate into adult society, earning them the right to marriage, inheritance, and political office. Given the possible endangerment of  the whistled register of TshiVenda and its role in traditional education systems, this research offers the opportunity to explore fully incorporating the Indigenous pre-colonial curriculum into modern education systems in African societies and for the language to receive recognition by global cultural institutions like UNESCO.

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