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Finding Aid for the R. C. Stevenson collection of ethno-linguistic research manuscripts, 1925-1990
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography/History
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: R. C. Stevenson collection of ethno-linguistic research manuscripts
    Date (inclusive): 1925-1990
    Collection number: 525
    Creator: Stevenson, R.C.
    Extent: 44 boxes (22 linear ft.)
    Abstract: Roland C. Stevenson was a teacher, linguist, and ethnographer who spent the greater part of his career documenting the indigenous languages of Africa. This collection consists of his sizable accretion of ethno-linguistic manuscripts drafted mostly during a period spanning from the early 1960s to the late 1980s. The manuscripts in the collection cover a wide range of African languages, predominantly from the North Eastern, Central, and Western portions of the African continent.
    Language: Finding aid is written in English.
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    Open for research. STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UC Regents. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Janet Ahmed, September 1995.
    This collection includes materials that were previously under the charge of Richard Hayward at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and Roger Blench at Oxford University.

    Processing Note

    Processed by Chuck Wilson, 2004; reprocessed by Shannon O'Neal, 2008; Jesse Erickson and Christopher Ehret, 2012.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], R. C. Stevenson collection of ethno-linguistic research manuscripts (Collection 525). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 7121547 


    Roland C. Stevenson was born on January 15, 1915 in Romford, Essex. He studied at the University of London from 1932 to 1935, graduating with a B.A. [Honors] in French. As an employee of the Church Missionary Society, he first traveled to Sudan in 1937. In Sudan, in the Nuba Mountains region of the country, he served as a teacher in the mission schools until the period of scholastic nationalization which occurred in 1959. Alongside his teaching, he also began to study the languages of the region.
    While still employed by the Church Missionary Society, he earned another degree in African languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies. His thesis for the degree provided the first professional linguistic phonological analyses and grammatical sketches of most of the then 'little known' languages of the Nuba Mountains. He published these findings in successive issues of Afrika und Übersee in 1955 and 1956. In 1965 he obtained the degree of M.Sc. in the Sociology Department of the University of Khartoum for his ethnographic study of the peoples of the Nuba Mountains.
    From 1959 to 1965, Stevenson carried on his linguistic studies in Omdurman. He worked on a project which had him alphabetizing the various Sudan languages while also teaching social anthropology at the University of Khartoum. Then from 1965 to 1980 he worked in Nairobi with the United Bible Society, advising on Bible translation and related linguistic matters. He returned to Khartoum in 1980 as a guest professor in the Institute of African and Asian Studies at the University of Khartoum. In 1983 he became professor and head of the Division of Sudan and African Languages, a position he held until his retirement in 1988.
    Stevenson was an active contributor to Nilo-Saharan and Kordofanian linguistic studies in his later years, and he attended and presented papers at most of the international Nilo-Saharan conferences. He was still working on new materials relating to the Nuba Mountain languages at the time of his unexpected death on May 8, 1991.

    Scope and Content

    These papers comprise the greater part of Professor Stevenson's linguistic field collections on the Central Sudan and Nuba mountains region. Represented in the collection are approximately 30 to 40 different languages from at least five of the six major African language families. The larger portion of the research materials cover languages in the Nilo-Saharan and Afro-Asiatic families. The collection was compiled over a period of more than 30 years-roughly form the early 1960s through the end of the 1980s. Among the different types of materials included in the collection are unpublished grammars, related language instruction publications, late twentieth century missionary [language instruction] booklets, ethnographic field notes, and unpublished conference proceedings from a selection of different international conferences on African Languages, politics, and history. Some small assortment of documents relating to particular languages are missing, having been distributed to other scholars in 1991 and 1992.

    Organization and Arrangement

    The collection has been grouped and arranged according to the families of languages represented in the collection materials.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Stevenson, R.C. --Archives.
    Linguistics teachers --Archives.
    Anthropological linguistics --Archival resources.