Scientific Program

The activities conducted in the network are organized in two main strands of research.

Strand 1. Areal Studies – The Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. (coord. Sabrina Bendjaballah, CNRS, LLING)

The Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa

  • host a great variety of Afroasiatic languages
  • constitute currently a research topic at the intersection of several disciplines: archeology, history, genetics, geography, linguistics, politic sciences etc.

As a matter of fact, they constitute a coherent area in various respects: the relationships between both sides of the Red Sea have a long history (; and population movements in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula are currently intensive (

From a linguistic point of view, the similarities between some languages spoken in the Horn of Africa and in the south of the Arabian Peninsula are a topic of debate (see e.g. the question of the relationships between Ethiosemitic and Modern South Arabian). The area thus receives particular attention from the perspective of language reconstruction. In the last decade, researchers have tried to combine linguistic evidence with genetic evidence and archeological evidence in order to date the population movements across the Red Sea, and the history of the settlement of the area. Despite this effervescence, no definite conclusion has been reached: the evidence in the scientific fields above does not seem to converge, and there are several methodological issues with glottochronology.

Our position is that in order to go beyond the obvious similarity of various general features at a superficial level, it is necessary to have a precise description and analysis of the relevant languages. Yet many langages spoken in the area are still insufficiently known at the present stage, many crucial data/linguistics facts are still missing, and, as a consequence, some of the generalizations at the basis of much recent work might turn out to be wrong. The aims of our network are thus:

  • to supply solid and complete descriptions
  • to establish a reliable empirical basis for further research
  • to provide a comparative analysis of linguistic systems spoken in the region.

WP1. Understudied & endangered languages: A case study, Modern South Arabian (coord. Sabrina Bendjaballah, CNRS LLING & Aaron Rubin, PSU)

WP2. Music & language: Poetry in the Arabian Peninsula and in the Horn of Africa (coord. Julien Dufour, ENS-Ulm, CEFREPA & Martin Orwin, Napoli L’Orientale)

Strand 2. Comparative studies – Language-variation: grammatical & sociolinguistic issues (coord Julien Dufour, ENS-Ulm, CEFREPA)

Variation in human languages is pervasive, but not arbitrary: the features of languages pattern into clusters that define typological classes. ALL aims at :

  • comparing the details of the morpho-phonological and morpho-syntactic expression of grammatical features in the respective langages.
  • combining different levels of analysis (phonological, morphosyntactic, pragmatic, and typological) in order to provide a fine-grained study of the multifactorial nature of language contact, and lay the foundations of a typology of language contact phenomena in Afroasiatic.
  • investigating the sociolinguistic conditioning of contact-induced change

WP3. Morpho-phonological & morpho-syntactic variation (coord. Sabrina Bendjaballah, CNRS LLING & Azeb Amha, Leiden ASC)

WP4. Language contact: Sociolinguistics, contact-induced change (coord. Jairo Guerrerro, Catherine Miller, IREMAM & Maarten Kossmann, Leiden LUCL)