Research by Theme
The LLACAN research activities are organised in three themes (axes), which comprise the research projects and a meeting programme that aims at creating synergies between the projects.
Theme 1: Grammatical analysis and typology
The grammatical analysis of the languages of Africa, including the documentation of their diversity, is one of the main tasks of LLACAN. Our research endeavours concentrate on unknown or little known languages, for which the researchers of LLACAN produce first-hand descriptions requiring field research. Many of our research projects thus centre on the elaboration of grammars of African languages. Other projects aim at studying grammatical phenomena from a comparative or typological perspective or at improving the methods or theories of grammatical analysis.
Theme 2: Comparison, typology and reconstruction
Despite its 2000 living languages, the linguistic mosaic of Africa has remained the stepchild of comparative studies around the world. Greenberg’s (1963) canonical classification of African languages has recently been called into question, especially by Dimmendaal (2008, 2011); the revisions proposed are not necessarily based on new facts but rather on a re-evaluation of the arguments which have traditionally been brought forward. The affinity of the Mande languages to the Niger-Congo phylum, for instance, is now considered doubtful because it cannot be proven. One of the tasks of Theme 2 is the rigorous evaluation of the historical relationships between the languages with newly developed IT resources.
Theme 3: Literature in African languages, literary theory and linguistic practices
Theme 3 is dedicated to the analysis of African languages in their cultural context, especially through oral or written literary texts. It commits itself to a global approach to African literature and intends to contribute to an elaboration of a theory of literature in African languages; the research is embedded in linguistics, literary theory and discourse analysis. Theme 3 also addresses the question of the role of literature in the transmission of African languages at different levels: at French universities, especially INALCO, where African languages are taught; in cooperative projects with institutional actors of research in Africa; in direct collaboration with representatives of civil society.
Transversal project: Corpora and databases
Since its foundation in 1994, the scientific activity of our research unit relies on the collection and analysis of textual and lexical data in a large number of African languages. In the past years, several corpus and database projects have been developed, some of which have been (and are still) financed by the ANR, others have been funded by the research unit itself. Through these projects, expertise in the use and management of programmes such as Toolbox and ELAN has slowly been built up, followed by expertise in the development of software for annotation (ELAN-CorpA) and of databases as well as in the design of projects focussing on the creation of textual or lexical resources online.
Following the launch of different corpus projects by the ANR and of French initiatives to join the European institutions by associating itself to CLARIN-ERIC, it has become a challenge to structure the community of creators and users of written and oral corpora. The creation of large-scale infrastructures (TGIR Adonis, Corpus-IR) and, within IR-Corpus, the creation of consortiums thus aims at implementing standards and good practices compliant with European and international standard.