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Languages and ethnic groups in the Caucasus: typology of languages and typology of ethnolinguistic situations

Priority areas of development: humanitarian
2017
Department: Laboratory of the Caucasian Languages
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Goals of the project

Within the project, we analyze different aspects of the grammar of Caucasian languages. In particular, we aim at the investigation of the most typical grammatical features; documentation of minor and endangered languages of the North Caucasus; development of corpus resources on North Caucasian languages. This also includes collecting and analysis of genetic samples from traditional settlement areas of different ethnic groups in Daghestan (controlling patrilineal relatedness); documentation of minority languages and field and corpus research of grammar.

Methodsused

The project employs linguistic and genetic methods of data analysis. Linguistic analysis used the methods of comparative and synchronic analysis of grammar. Acoustic data were studied by methods of instrumental acoustic analysis, primarily by means of the free annotation-and-analysis program Praat. Grammatical studies are based on the methods of intragenetic typology – a study of comparable (structurally or functionally) grammatical phenomena in genetically related languages. This comparison is especially fruitful when investigating universal (within a given family) phenomena – gender agreement, spatial expressions, phonological inventories of vowels and consonants. Corpus research employs existing morphologically annotated corpora of several Nakh-Daghestanian languages for both data collection and statistical or theoretical analysis. Genetic analysis targets patrilineal kinship based on genetic data from the loci of the Y-chromosome (a panel of micro-satellites of Y-chromosome is used to establish family relatedness through male line).

Empiricaldata

Empirical data for linguistic analysis proper comes from texts in various languages of Daghestan and from elicitation for grammatical purposes in the fieldwork setting. The texts can be divided into two groups: recordings of interviews and oral stories recorded in minority languages or dialects, on the one hand, and written texts in major languages of Daghestan, on the other hand. The study of the grammar is done by interviewing native speaker consultants (including translating sentence stimuli and acceptability judgements of sentences constructed by researchers). The study of the phonetics involves direct perceptive analysis while interviewing the consultants as well as perceptive and instrumental analysis of the data recorded from them. The basis for genetic studies is constituted by genetic material obtained from male donors; as patrilineal kinship is targeted, we only consider loci on the Y-chromosome.

Outcomes

The following specific results were obtained in 2017:

We have written a number of articles already accepted for publication in peer-review journal or edited volumes: an original article on infinitival constructions in Khuduts Dargwa and Nidj Udi, an overview article on binding and indexicality in the languages of the Caucasus (binding domains, possible antecedents, the distinction between coreference and binding, the behavior of personal pronouns and verbal person agreement in reported speech constructions), and an overview article on ergativity in the Caucasus (thematic roles expressed by ergative arguments, subjecthood properties, ergative–absolutive syncretism). We have processed audio-recordings we made for the on-line dictionary of Khinalugh; we have developed the structure of the database on phonological inventories of Caucasian languages and started populating the database with empirical data; we have analyzed a wordlist from Chirag Dargwa and complied a list of possible phonotactic structures with examples. An online transliterator has been developed and launched allow for the conversion between the IPA-based phonological transcription of Mehweb and Andi and Cyrillic-based orthographies of these languages. We have written scripts in Python which extract lexical entries with required properties from Ganieva’s Khinalug-Russian dictionary. as well as scripts extracting complex lexical entries for a Lak-Russian dictionary. We have recorded wordlists to analyze acoustic variability of the sibilant [s] in several languages; lexical wordlists to study phonotic structure of Adyghe and stress placement rules in Abaza; lexical wordlists to study assignment of nominal gender to recent Russian borrowings into Andi. New genetic data were obtained from the DNA samples collected in Daghestan; the set of loci was increased and data from other populations were included (Mehwebs and Archis).

Publications:


Ganenkov D. Gender agreement alternation in Aqusha Dargwa: A case against information structure // Studies in Language. 2018. Vol. 42. No. 3. P. 529-561. doi