Projets financés récents

 1/1/2020-31/12/2024 : ALL, Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics: Bridging the Red Sea Rift, CNRS IRN

Partenaires : UMR6310 LLING, USR3141 CEFAS, UMR7310 IREMAM, USR3137 CFEE, Leiden University, SOAS-University of London, Penn State University

Afroasiatic languages have always represented an important part of the world’s cultural heritage. Their relevance today cannot be underestimated, either. The Afroasiatic language family gathers ca. 375 living languages spoken by ca. 350 million speakers in a large geographical domain (in North, West, Central, and East Africa, in the Middle East, in the diaspora in Europe, the United States etc.) They thus represent an appreciable part of the world’s intangible heritage. The status of these languages is diverse. Next to languages with millions of speakers which have official status, there is a considerable number of undescribed and understudied languages.

ALL will explore a specific linguistic and cultural area — the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, and will contribute to the visibility of the languages spoken in that area in academia and in policy-making circles in the relevant countries.

In the Afroasiatic linguistic landscape, as in most cases in the world, communication takes place in multilingual contexts. ALL focusses on contact-situations that are understudied, and parts of the grammar that are usually neglected. More generally, the question to be asked is that of variation. Variation in human languages is not arbitrary: the features of languages pattern into clusters that define typological classes. We will study this phenomenon in two dimensions, one historical, social and geographic, the other internal to the grammatical systems.

From a methodological point of view, individual languages will be studied by combining philological, comparative, synchronic, and theoretical perspectives. The activities conducted in the network will be organized as sketched below.

Strand 1. Areal Studies – The Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.

  • WP1. Understudied & endangered languages: A case study, Modern South Arabian. Modern South Arabian (MSA) is a group of languages of the Semitic family spoken in eastern Yemen, in southern Oman and in the diaspora. They represent the last remaining indigenous languages of the southern Arabian Peninsula. In spite of important recent work, MSA languages still remain understudied. MSA languages are also unique at a typological level. The activities within the network aim at progressing in different areas of the grammar of MSA languages, mainly phonology and morphology.
  • WP2. Music & language: Poetry in the Arabian Peninsula and in the Horn of Africa. The poetical use of language is a central issue in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa and deserves to be investigated per se. The research conducted in the network aims at a better documentation and understanding of Yemeni poetry in Arabic, Somali poetry, and Modern South Arabian poetry. In particular, it will investigate the relationship between language and music in Somali and Yemeni poetry and song.

Strand 2. Comparative studies – Language-variation: grammatical & sociolinguistic issues

  • WP3. Morpho-phonological & morpho-syntactic variation. The questions pertaining to the morphophonological / morphosyntactic interface are crucial for a proper understanding of the grammar of Afroasiatic languages. These aspects will be studied in the following (non exhaustive) empirical domains: definiteness and nominal number in Cushitic ; gender, definiteness and number in Omotic ; gender in Coptic Egyptian ; morphophonological processes that tend to be expressed by syntactic features in Arabic vernaculars (e.g. passive voice, modality) ; text-based syntax in Berber ; argument structure in Berber.
  • WP4. Language contact: Sociolinguistics, contact-induced change. Like most languages in the world, Afroasiatic languages experience various types of linguistic contact. Language contact can be viewed as one of the triggering factors for linguistic change. This includes of course lexical « borrowing », but also several grammaticalization processes, some of which are still understudied. This work-package will provide a detailed study of the multifactorial nature of language contact, and it will combine different levels of analysis (phonological, morphosyntactic, pragmatic, and typological).

Kick-off meeting: May 6-7, Nantes (France)

 1/1/2020-31/12/2023 : ALMAS, Ancient and Modern Languages of South Arabia - A cross-disciplinary approach
to a linguistic area, ANR AAPCE27

Partenaires : USR 3141 CEFAS (porteur), UMR 8167 Orient & Méditerranée, UMR 5133 Archéorient, UMR 6310 LLING, UMR 7018 LPP

ALMAS is an international and interdisciplinary consortium aiming at renewing the study of the living and extinct languages of South Arabia (Oman, southwestern Saudi Arabia, Yemen):

  • A set of four Ancient South Arabian languages, now extinct : Sabaic, Qatabanic, Minaic, Hadramitic. They are mostly attested through written documentation from Yemen. Some unclassified and undeciphered languages and scripts will be studied, which have generally been studied by epigraphists.
  • A group of six living Modern South Arabian languages with no written tradition, all endangered: Mehri, Harsusi, Bathari, Hobyot, Jibbali, Soqotri. They are spoken in the southern Omani province of Dhofar, the eastern Yemeni province of Mahra and the Yemeni island of Soqotra.
  • A rich array of highly diversified and archaic Arabic vernaculars spoken throughout the region.

The novelty of ALMAS lies in the interdisciplinary synergy it creates:

  • by cross-fertilizing synchronic and diachronic approaches to the abovementioned languages.
  • by stimulating contacts between researchers from three different domains (epigraphists, general linguists and specialists of Arabic).
  • by developing complementarity between linguists from different schools and approaches. This kind of collaboration proved its efficiency in the course of the ANR project OmanSaM (ANR-13-BSH2-0001) where phonologists, syntactictians, phoneticians and Semitists shared a common fieldwork with beneficial impact for each discipline.

ALMAS will set a landmark in the domain by :

  • documenting the languages through fieldwork and create an open-access database, thus contributing to the protection and preservation of the world’s cultural heritage.
  • analyzing the data in order to reach an adequate understanding of the languages’ structures.
  • reevaluating the relationships between the languages (phylogenetic relatedness and/or language contact).
 1/10/2013-30/9/2017 : OmanSaM, Les langues sudarabiques modernes en Oman, ANR-13-BSH2-0001 Blanc

Partenaires : UMR7110 LLF puis UMR6310 LLING, USR3141 CEFAS, UMR7018 LPP

Le projet est consacré au mehri d’Oman et au jibbali, langues sudarabiques modernes (SaM, famille sémitique), parlées en Oman. Deux raisons le motivent : i) ces langues sont en danger : minoritaires, sans statut officiel, sous la pression de l’arabe, ii) elles sont sous-étudiées et, de ce fait, minorées en sémitique. Le projet a deux objectifs : 1. Documentation : actualisation et accroissement des données disponibles en mehri d’Oman et jibbali ; constitution de corpus électroniques systématiques, qui seront stockés, archivés et mis à la disposition des chercheurs ; 2. Analyse linguistique, centrée sur quatre points : phonétique / phonologie du larynx ; structure morphologique du système verbal ; détermination et modification du nom ; dialectologie, comparatisme.

Plus d’informations sur le site du projet :

Réseaux de recherche récents

Equipe de recherche sur les langues de la Corne de l'Afrique : ERLLAD

L’objectif de ce groupe de recherche est double. Il s’agit d’une part de proposer une description linguistique adéquate des langues parlées dans la Corne de l’Afrique, dont principalement le somali et l’afar, et d’autre part d’aborder des questions d’intérêt théorique général en phonétique, phonologie, morphologie et morphosyntaxe. Une des préoccupations de l’équipe concerne également la typologie et le contact des langues en raison de la situation sociolinguistique de Djibouti. La méthode adoptée repose sur une base empirique forte. Elle se fonde sur des corpus aussi larges que possible, voire exhaustifs, grâce au dépouillement systématique de la littérature et au recueil de données originales auprès de locuteurs natifs, sur le terrain à Djibouti ainsi qu’en France et dans d’autres pays européens. Les données collectées sont observées dans un cadre théorique cohérent, celui de la grammaire générative, et plus spécifiquement, selon les domaines abordés, dans les modèles CVCV, le programme minimaliste etc.

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