Current European research projects

The Mysterious Bang: A Language and Population Isolate Unlocks the Secrets of Interior West Africa's Lost Ethnolinguistic Diversity
(01.11.2022 - 31.10.2027)

PI : Abbie Hantgan-Sonko

Bangime, a language isolate spoken among the Dogon groups in Mali is one of only four confirmed language isolates in Africa. The speakers' - the Bangande - genetic relationship to other groups in Africa is also unknown. Furthermore, the affiliations of the languages and peoples surrounding the Bangande, the Dogon, Mande, and Songhai groups, are among the most debated in West Africa. The BANG project will bring together existing linguistic data from these understudied languages which will be compared with locally collected genetic data to reconstruct the ancient history of West African populations. The BANG team will use innovative computer-assisted technologies, the results of which will be made available to researchers and community members in an accessible, multimodal online database.


Theory of Tone (THoT)
(01.09.2023 - 31.08.2028)

PI : Valentin Vydrin

The aim of the project is to identify general types of tonal systems of languages of the world, which is done on the basis of the investigation of rich language data. The project accumulates comprehensive data on the role of tones in phonological systems of the world languages: their structure, the relative importance of tone for a certain language, its role in distinguishing lexical and/or grammatical meanings. The project uses a model of analysis that could be applied to any tonal system of any language, which leads the research team to the adequate comparison of the tonal systems carried out on the basis of relevant parameters, including the new parameter, i.e. the Tonal Density Index. As a part of the project, a data base of tonal languages of the world is planned to be created.

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View finished European research projects

Finished European contracts

Discourse reporting in African storytelling (01.02.2018-31.12.2021 [continued at LACITO])

PI : Tatiana Nikitina

The project explores the role of discourse reporting in West African storytelling and the grammatical strategies used by storytellers to achieve their goals. It focuses on three phenomena characteristic of the narrative grammar of a number of West African languages: (i) logophoricity, or the use of special markers to signal self-reference by characters other than the current narrator; (ii) the use of quotative markers and (iii) the use of foreign language or modified versions of the native language to represent the speech of certain characters.

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DReaM – The Dictionary/Grammar Reading Machine: Computational Tools for Accessing the World’s Linguistic Heritage (01.02.2018-31.01.2021)

PI 1 : Harald Hammarström (U Uppsala) / PI 2 : Marian Klamer (U Leiden) / PI 3 : Stéphane Robert (LLACAN)

The diversity of the world's 6,500 languages embodies a wealth of information on human cognition and the history of populations. As languages go extinct, the linguistic heritage of human kind increasingly resides in grammars and dictionaries, which are rapidly accumulating. Accessing this heritage entails that the descriptions are available – which is, however, often a problem.
In this project we aim to enhance access to the world’s linguistic heritage by making an existing collection of more than 9,000 PDF documents no longer protected by to copyright available in a stable archive enriched by added metadata and computational tools developed to search information within the texts.
Moreover, a number of dictionaries will be converted to apps for mobile devices that can be distributed to speakers of minority languages, handing back to these speakers some of their linguistic heritage.
The third aim of the project is to develop information-extraction tools specifically tailored to the task of dealing with language descriptions. Using cutting-edge methods from Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing we intend to build a system that can extract millions of snippets of information and link them in ways such that it is possible to construct individual language profiles from a variety of sources and to output comparative databases for the purpose of typological and historical linguistics.

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