Friday, August 31, 2007

Leiden conference on African languages and linguistics

I'm just back from a conference at Leiden, and heading off to take a holiday in Algeria very soon; here's my interim report to tide my readers (to whom I apologise for the interruption in service:) over.

Leiden turns out to be a very nice little town, clean, quiet, full of canals, and practically empty. I imagine all that changes when the students get there! The conference was good - I got to talk to several other people working on Berber and Songhay, and heard some interesting talks. To name a few, Jeffrey Heath discussed the remarkable ways in which syntax affects tone in Jamsay Dogon; Maarten Kossmann argued (and I am inclined to agree) that the Mande influence discernible in southern but not northern Songhay, and especially strong in "Inner", or Eastern, Songhay, is particularly to be linked to Soninke, and is not a feature of proto-Songhay; Alain Bassene presented a paper on topicalisation and focus in a Jola variety where both proved to behave in a manner almost completely identical to their behaviour in Algerian Arabic; and Mary Pearce presented in impressive detail what turned out to be a clear ongoing sound change (a shift from phonemic tone to phonemic voicing) in the Chadic language Kera. My own paper was perhaps a little too esoteric even for a conference like this - I'm not sure that more than two or three people in the audience actually cared about sound shifts in Songhay - but I heard corroborating evidence for one of my statements immediately afterwards, which was satisfying.

I also picked up a pleasing number of free language/linguistics books, including review copies (look for them on Afrikanistik sometime in the indefinite future) of a new dialectological atlas of the Moroccan Rif and of a book by Pichler on the history of Tifinagh which (I'm not sure whether to be amused or annoyed) briefly quotes me verbatim regarding Neo-Tifinagh without attribution or even quotation marks.


David Marjanović said...

What does the book reproduce? This priceless quote?

It just goes to show the sort of mess you get into if you have intellectuals attempting to plan scripts in accordance with broader philosophical fads; although in some ways it is rather appropriate that traditionalists (or indeed reactionaries), believers in 'progress' (aka the mentally colonized), and romantics (directly copying their ideology from European folk-nationalist movements of the 1800's) should all write different scripts, frankly they're unlikely enought [sic] to listen to each other already. Isn't it bad enough that the three sides normally write in different languages?

Lameen Souag said...


Actually, it was "folkloric kitsch, more suitable for travel brochures and logos than daily use".

Roberto Iza said...

Kind regards