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