Keynote speakers

Plenary speakers

- Martine Vanhove (LLACAN - CNRS) -Information structuring in Beja (North Cushitic) (video)
- Janet C. E. Watson (University of Leeds) - Endangered languages, cultures and ecosystems: The case of Modern South Arabian (video)
- Ekkehard Wolff (Universität Leipzig) - Chadic linguistics in the 21st century: Attempting a state-of-the-art account (video)



Martine Vanhove (LLACAN - CNRS) - Information structuring in Beja (North Cushitic)

Beja (North-Cushitic) displays several encoding strategies for the expression of information structuring, from prosodic marking to argumentative connectors, object pronouns, enclitic morphemes on either verbs or nouns, or clause chaining types. On the basis of naturalistic data that I recorded in Sudan, this presentation will discuss the various strategies used:
(i) the role of prosody (pitch contours, intonation unit boundaries and pauses) for the identification of argument topics, antitopics and afterthoughts (ex.1);
(ii) the emphatic assertive particle =i/=a which applies to verbs and the copula (ex.2);
(iii) the contrastive particle (=)na/(=)ni which contrasts two clauses or a clause and a presupposition, and highlight an unexpected event (ex.3);
(iv) the argumentative connectors geː / geːn and haːjloː (ex. 4 & 5);
(v) the scalar additive focus particle han 'also' (ex. 6);
(vi) the "phatic" use (in the sense of Jacobson) of the 2SG object enclitic pronoun and the 2SG dative independent pronoun (ex. 7);
(vii) the use of the 3PL perfective of the verb di 'say' as a marker of the end of a discursive sequence (ex. 8);
(viii) tail-head linkage (ex. 9).

Remarkably, Beja does not use the cleft strategy. A cultural explanation to this lack will be discussed in the light of the highly valued role of headless relative clauses as an allusive device.

Janet C. E. Watson (University of Leeds) - Endangered languages, cultures and ecosystems: The case of Modern South Arabian

In this talk, I will discuss a community documentation project conducted on the Modern South Arabian languages in southern Oman between January 2013 and December 2016. I will begin by appraising the language/culture/ecosystem situation in the region, looking at the relationship between language, culture and the natural environment. I will then examine decisions taken during the documentation period, and discuss steps taken by the team and community members towards language revitalisation of the languages.

During the documentation period over 200 hours of audio material and 15 hours of video material were collected and archived at the Endangered Languages Archive, held at SOAS on topics relating principally to traditional culture and the relationship of humans to the natural environment. Revitalization processes have included the development of an Arabic-based orthography and children's e-books, collaboration on production of a pedagogical grammar of Mehri, international dissemination with native speakers, and work with the Mehri Center for Studies and Research based in al-Ghaydhah, Yemen.

Ekkehard Wolff (Universität Leipzig) - Chadic linguistics in the 21st century: Attempting a state-of-the-art account

The presentation aims at providing a survey of where Chadic linguistics, once a thriving and leading sub-field of African linguistics with a remarkable international community of scholars involved, currently stands in terms of institutional and individual representation. This account will be based on personal experience as much as on available extensive bibliographies and the proceedings of the Biennial International Colloquium in the Chadic languages (BICCL), which took over from previous non-coordinated networks of Chadic linguistics in 2001.
It its first part, the presentation will address the state of the art of descriptive Chadic linguistics vis-à-vis the fact that Chadic forms the largest family within Afroasiatic with 193 individual languages (Ethnologue 2019), in terms of language documentation, availability of full grammatical descriptions and dictionaries.
In the second part, the presentation will look at issues touching on the postulated genetic classification of Chadic within Afroasiatic. It then raises the question of how Chadic historical linguistics could possibly provide challenging insights or disturbing questions for comparative Afroasiatic as a whole.
In the third part, achievements of Chadic historical-comparative linguistics will be looked at in some more detail in terms of application of advances towards phonological, lexical and grammatical reconstructions. This will allow to add more flesh to the question raised in the second part, namely how Chadic could possibly contribute to a better understanding of Afroasiatic language histories.
In the fourth and final part, and if time allows, the position of Chadic in the wider linguistic convergence area south of the Sahara ('Macro-Sudan belt' acc. to Güldemann 2008) will be illuminated.


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