The main goal of the Afranaph Project, as it is presently constituted, is to develop rich descriptions of a wide range of African languages in order to serve the interests of linguistic research into the nature and distribution of empirical patterns in natural language. The first project of our website, and still the one that is the mainstay of our research, has been to explore the distribution of anaphoric morphology and interpretation, but recent initiatives to expand the role of our empirical investigations to other sorts of linguistic phenomena will soon result in sister projects, autonomous, but linked to Afranaph in spirit, by infrastructure, and with respect to a common database (see Afranaph Sisters).
Although our project is informed specifically by the research goals of generative grammar, it is our intention to make the data we collect as accessible as possible to any linguist with an interest in these languages or more general issues in crosslinguistic comparison. The data we present is collected on the basis of complex and comprehensive questionnaires that are to be filled out by native speaker linguist consultants, and are designed to elicit data that can bear on research questions of interest to a particular Afranaph Sister Project. Subsequent follow-up work between the consultants and project investigators explores interesting details and patterns that appear to be comparatively or theoretically significant. This project has become more feasible at this point in history not only because there are an unprecedented number of trained African linguists who are potential participants in our project, but also because the resources of the web and the internet make it possible for more efficient remote participation.
We hope and anticipate that our website will also attract the participation of otherwise isolated scholars who have much to offer, while providing useful training for our interns and graduate assistants who help to run the site (see Staff). In the course of our operations, we hope that the network of consultants and researchers our project brings together will make it possible to explore other areas of grammar (outside anaphora) by the same means and with the same network, creating, in effect, a community space for research into African languages.
This website was initiated with support of NSF grants BCS 0303447, BCS 0523102 and is currently supported by NSF BCS 0919086, Ken Safir, Principal Investigator
We are pleased to announce that the Kinande Dictionary Fund has achieved its goal! In December, 2011, 550 copies of the Kinande/Konzo-English Dictionary were shipped to Kampala, Uganda by the Africa World Press and eventually reached the hands of our distributors there. We would like to thank everyone involved for their assistance, including the Endangered Language Fund, which handled our donations.
For each language we have studied we have established a case file that contains the research products of the Afranaph Sister Projects and other features of interest to linguists studying that particular language. Thus in addition to static (.pdf) versions of the questionnaire responses, and sketches related to the projects (e.g., anaphora sketches), we also include, as often as possible (or in the future) a select bibliography, a grammar sketch, a translated narrative and a consultant profile.
Every case file also includes a feature, ‘About This Case File,’ which should be read before any material in that file is cited or treated as raw data. ‘About This Case File’ includes information about the completeness of the questionnaire response data, the completeness of data entry into the database, the completeness of other features in the file, any orthographic issues that need to be taken account of, or any other issue about the structure of the data, the elicitation, or the analysis that needs to be taken into consideration by users. Sometimes there is also information about when we anticipate that additional features will be added to the case file.
The static questionnaire responses are stored in our case files as .pdfs. Since we provide the data we draw our conclusions from, we hope we are providing enough information so that those with different interests can pursue them, or those who think we have got it wrong can make the case that we have erred. The static questionnaires include much of our native speaker consultant commentary in the context of the section where it is introduced, and so sometimes more of this useful commentary is to be found in the static questionnaire response than in the database. It is usually the case that if there is, for any sentence, any discrepancy of form between the static questionnaire response sentence and the corresponding sentence in the database, it is the database form that is generally correct (or at least most carefully vetted). For this reason, we recommend that if you choose to reproduce examples that you use the database for this purpose. Make sure, however, that you have the right character representation, which you will be alerted to in ‘About this Case File.’
The Grammar Sketch is a short document that acts as a guide to major constructions and paradigms that will be useful background for anyone interested in the data that we have collected in more detail. The anaphora sketch is our analysis of the patterns of anaphora that emerge from the data we present and is usually a collaboration between the PI of the African Anaphora Project and the consultant for the file in question.