Home Anaphora Project

Project Director: Ken Safir, Rutgers University

The main goal of the African Anaphora Project, the eldest of the Afranaph Sisters, 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 anaphoric effects. Anaphoric readings, in the sense intended here, are those readings where one linguistic form, such as a pronoun, reflexive or reciprocal, refers back to a previously mentioned form in the sentence or in the discourse. It appears that every human language has at least some specialized forms that achieve such effects. This website explores those forms and effects for every African language that native speaker linguist consultants are willing to help us with. Although this 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.
Within the history of generative grammar, the current state of understanding at any given time about the distribution of anaphoric effects has played an important role in stimulating theoretical innovations that have often not been confined to the empirical domain of anaphora. As early as the 1960s, it was observed that a significant range of anaphoric effects and interpretations are configurationally conditioned, and in that sense, are important clues and boundary conditions as to what version of syntactic theory and interpretation is most likely to be the correct one. Since the 1980s, variation in the patterns of anaphora found across the world’s languages has become a preoccupation for those interested in sifting universals and principled typologies from the welter of empirical patterns and this project is designed to explore fine details of patterns that have been undetected before, as well as patterns new to theoretical research.

More about the Anaphora Project

Afranaph Questionnaire in English [pdf] [doc] | et en Français [pdf] [doc]