Orange Alert

LLL Awards Second Annual Milkatu Garba Memorial Award

Milkatu Garba portrait.

Posted on: May 13, 2024

The Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics (LLL) has awarded the 2024 Milkatu Garba Memorial Award for Field Linguistics to Ben Yamsuan. Named in honor of Milkatu Garba, a graduate of the master’s program in linguistic studies who passed away in 2022, the award memorializes Garba’s accomplishments and impact at Syracuse University, within the local community and in the field of linguistics. It is presented annually to an MA student in linguistic studies who conducts work in field linguistics.

Yamsuan is a second-year graduate student in linguistic studies who specializes in linguistic theory and language, culture and society. With the award, they will continue work on Mbat tonology.

Ben Yamsuan portrait.
Ben Yamsuan, winner of the 2024 Milkatu Garba Memorial Award for Field Linguistics.

Garba joined the master’s program in linguistic studies in 2018 and was the program’s first female student from Nigeria. At Syracuse, she was awarded a highly competitive teaching assistantship and worked with the department's largest undergraduate linguistics class, independently teaching a large group of 75 students each semester. She also conducted research in collaboration with Professor Christopher Green. The two partnered on his National Endowment for the Humanities-funded project, “Documentation and description of Jarawan languages.” A native speaker of a Jarawan language called Mbat, Garba worked with Green to collect and analyze materials on Mbat with the goal of publishing a sketch of its grammar with an accompanying lexicon.

“Milka was a talented teacher, and her passion was the preservation of her mother tongue, Mbat,” Green said in a reflection on the award page. “We began working together on describing and documenting the language during her time at Syracuse University and continued to do so after she graduated. Milka last traveled home in winter 2019 to collect narratives and songs in Mbat, which have formed the basis for nearly everything we yet know about the language.”

Learn more about the Milkatu Garba Memorial Award for Field Linguistics.