Project Details


Perhaps the single most pressing question in theoretical linguistics is the following: Are the new patterns in grammar that we discover challenges to the view that fundamental principles of mental organization in humans are specifically linguistic, or do languages and the grammars that underlie them arise strictly as function of the purpose they serve? The Afranaph Project addresses this question by expanding our understanding of African languages. The project uses internet access and the expertise of native speakers of African languages who have been trained as linguists in order to elicit rich and specialized data from many understudied languages of Africa, some of them endangered. The principal goal of this project is the discovery, documentation, analysis and explanation of new empirical patterns of interest to linguistic theory and typology. New NSF support will permit the researchers to develop and integrate a variety of research initiatives and insure that all data collection from the new projects envisioned enrich the effectiveness of the existing resources, which are the database and website, and permit the researchers to expand their coverage from the 25 languages to over 40 by the end of the new funding. The data, research tools, analyses and explanatory essays are freely available on the website Open access is fundamental to the project''s second goal, which is to build an integrated research community around the resources by expanding the network of consultants and researchers. For each language in the project, there is at least one African native speaker linguist, mostly linguists early in their career, who, through Afranaph collaborations, become familiar with Western scholars and modern methodologies in formal linguistics. The Afranaph Project formerly specialized in the study of anaphora, the linguistic devices that are used to refer back (such as pronouns and reflexives), but now the research expertise developed in anaphora studies will be applied to many new research domains, including the meaning, morphology and syntax of tense and aspect, sentential embedding, noun classes, and agreement, and crosslinguistic study adds to the aggregate of information available for each language in the project. The Afranaph project supports the scholarship and documentation of minority languages, some of them endangered. It enhances the training of junior scholars and the creation of new international partnerships.
Effective start/end date9/1/132/28/17


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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