Projects

Current projects:

Suprasegmentals in three West Nilotic languages

Funding body: Leverhulme Trust

PI: Bert Remijsen, RA: Tatiana Reid, PhD student: Mirella Blum

‘Suprasegmentals’ refers to those characteristics of the sound system of a language that are not predictable on the basis of the sequence of consonants and vowels. Examples in English include lexical stress and intonation. The West Nilotic languages of South Sudan present some of the richest suprasgemental systems to be found in the world’s languages, with independent contrasts of voice quality, tone, vowel length and intonation. By investigating the suprasegmental systems of three West Nilotic languages, this project will produce valuable insights regarding a) the range of possible suprasegmental contrasts, and b) the interactions between such contrasts.

About the funder: The Leverhulme Trust awards funding to support research and education, providing around £100 million of funding per year. Established at the wish of William Hesketh Lever, the Trust supports research on a wide variety of topics at all career levels, from postgraduate to emeritus. The Trust also places an emphasis on interdisciplinary projects and research.

Completed projects:

Morphological complexity in Nuer, a project conducted at Surrey Morphology Group (University of Surrey) and University of Edinburgh (06/2015 – 05/2019)

Funding body: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Grant AH/L011824/1 AHRC

Project members: Matthew Baerman*, Bert Remijsen, Tatiana Reid, Oliver Bond*, Irina Monich*

*University of Surrey

This project investigated verb and noun morphology in Nuer, a language of the West Nilotic branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family (spoken in the Republic of South Sudan and Ethiopia). Nuer has one of the most complex inflectional systems of any language in the world. This is due in part to the unpredictability and ambiguity of the forms, particularly of nouns, which makes it appear that substantial portions of their paradigm must be stored in the memory on a word-by-word basis. It is also due in part to the multi-layered internal structure of word forms, in which various prosodic features (length, tone, and phonation type), stem alternations, and suffixation vary independently to yield a staggering number of inflectional types. The outputs of the project include a detailed description of the inflectional morphology, the phonological and prosodic system behind it, and the historical processes that led to the current system, as well as a description of aspects of morphosyntax, and a Nuer lexicon online.

About the funder: The AHRC funds postgraduate training and research in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. The quality and range of research supported not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

A descriptive analysis of the Shilluk language (07/2015 – 09/2018)

Funding body: Leverhulme Trust

PI: Bert Remijsen, RA: Otto Gwado Ayoker

This project’s main goal was to produce a comprehensive descriptive analysis of the Shilluk language, accompanied by language documentation materials. This description covers the sound system, the morphology, and the syntax. The documentary materials are a lexicon and annotated multimedia collections of natural and controlled speech. We also produced literacy materials for the language community.

About the funder: The Leverhulme Trust awards funding to support research and education, providing around £100 million of funding per year. Established at the wish of William Hesketh Lever, the Trust supports research on a wide variety of topics at all career levels, from postgraduate to emeritus. The Trust also places an emphasis on interdisciplinary projects and research.

Metre and Melody in Dinka Speech and Song (01/2009 – 12/2011)

Funding body: Beyond Text

PI: D. Robert Ladd, RA: Bert Remijsen. Co-investigators: Angela Impey (SOAS), Miriam Meyerhoff. Assistant: Tatiana Reid

The main focus of this project was the way tone, vowel length, and voice quality work in several dialects of Dinka. Our interests also included how different dialects relate to each other, and how tone etc. are expressed in song and writing. We were also interested in how people from different areas and with different beliefs see their creative powers in word and song as skills and attributes that are important to their societies and cultures. The project had a strong documentary component. We recorded and compared speech and song and try to understand how the structure of language and the structure of song are related to each other.

Funding included a 3-year post-doctoral position for Bert Remijsen (including several fieldwork data collection trips to Sudan); further expansion of the electronic resource, with technical support of Cedric MacMartin; close collaboration with several native-speaker specialists, who were trained and subsequently involved in data collection and analysis, and involvement of Tatiana Reid as a student assistant in data collection and analysis.

About the funder: The Beyond Text strategic programme was developed by the AHRC in 2007 following a period of consultation with the arts and humanities research communities which identified visual communication, sensory perception, orality and material culture as key concerns for 21st century scholarship and the wider community. The programme crossed traditional boundaries between practice-based research and other forms of investigation.

Documentation and description of Thok Reel: a fieldwork trip to Southern Sudan (11/2010 – 07/2011)

Funding body: Endangered Languages Documentation Programme
Research grant SG0062 of The Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) itself funded by Arcadia (previously known as the Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund)

PI: Tatiana Reid

This project was concerned with documentation and description of Thok Reel, a minority language of South Sudan spoken by approximately 50,000 people known as Atuot (Lakes State, Yirol West; Latitude: 6.557, Longitude: 30.504). Thok Reel is under threat from the increasing use of Dinka. The documentary part of this project focused on documenting the oral history of the Atuot; the descriptive component provided a descriptive analysis of the morphosyntax.

About the funder: The Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) is funded by Arcadia (previously known as the Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund). ELDP aims to support the documentation of as many endangered languages as possible; to encourage fieldwork on endangered languages, especially by younger scholars with skills in language documentation; and to create a repository of resources for the linguistic, social science, and the language communities.

The sound system and morphophonology of Thok Reel: data collection trip to Southern Sudan (01/2010 – 02/2010)

Funding body: British Institute in Eastern Africa

PI: Tatiana Reid

This grant provided support for data collection on the sound system and morphophonology of Thok Reel. The grant funded part of Tatiana Reid’s field trip to Lakes State, Southern Sudan.

About the funder: The British Institute in Eastern Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya, exists to promote research into the archaeology, history, linguistics and anthropology of Eastern Africa. It is active throughout the region, having conducted projects in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Stress in Nilotic: a typological challenge (09/2005 – 12/2008)

Funding body: Arts & Humanities Research Council

PI: D. Robert Ladd, RA: Bert Remijsen. Co-investigators: Peter Ladefoged (UCLA), Leoma Gilley (SIL International)

This grant provided support for data collection and analysis on prosodic contrasts of Dinka and Shilluk, and for the development of an electronic resource that will make the results of the project freely available. Included funding for a 3-year post-doctoral position for Bert Remijsen (including several fieldwork data collection trips to Sudan); development of electronic resources, with technical support of Cedric MacMartin; and meetings and conference attendance by some participants.

About the funder: The AHRC funds postgraduate training and research in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. The quality and range of research supported not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

A dialect survey of the vocalic and prosodic contrasts of dialects of Dinka (07/2005 – 06/2007)

Funding body: The British Academy

PI: Bert Remijsen

This grants provided support for data collection and analysis on prosodic contrasts of dialects. It also supported the participation in the project Caguor Adong Manyang, through a 3-month visit to Edinburgh for training and research design, and by covering the expenses of fieldwork data collection.

About the funder: The British Academy is the national academy for the humanities and the social sciences. It is an independent, self-governing fellowship, elected for distinction and achievement in one or more branches of the academic disciplines that make up the humanities and social sciences.