In October 2012 I was appointed as researcher at LACITO (CNRS, Paris). During 2011-12 I was a British Academy postdoctoral fellow based at SOAS (University of London), working on the development of agreement in Berber, with a particular focus on the typologically unusual phenomenon of indirect object agreement. In August 2010 I finished a PhD on the grammatical effects of contact (mainly with Arabic and Berber) on two languages of the Sahara, Kwarandzyəy or Korandjé (a Songhay language of southwestern Algeria) and Siwi (a Berber language of western Egypt) at SOAS. I spent most of October 2007 through May 2008 in the Sahara documenting these two languages, whose speakers I would like to thank for their amazing generosity and good nature. I also thank the AHRC for funding my research.
Before starting my MA, I was Curator of the Rosetta Project for two years; during my studies at SOAS I spent some time working at the SOAS Endangered Language Archives, where I built the bilingual language documentation link library OREL. My BA was in Mathematics at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge; while I haven't used it directly much, the resulting analytical and programming skills have often come in handy. I reached the finals in University Challenge in 2004, which turned out to be good fun. I keep a linguistics blog, Jabal al-Lughat. You can email me at [my first name] at gmail.com.
- Berber and Arabic in Siwa (Egypt): A Study in Linguistic Contact. Berber Studies Vol. 37. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 2014.
Siwi is the easternmost Berber language, one of the few surviving representatives of the languages spoken in the eastern Sahara before the arrival of Bedouin Arab groups in the 11th century – although this apparent continuity conceals a history of migration, as this book argues based on loanwords and intra-Berber relationships. The effects of contact upon the grammar are far more far-reaching than in better documented westerly Berber languages, extending to non-concatenative templatic morphology and some pronominal endings, as well as prominent calquing. Siwi itself is inadequately documented and under threat; this book, based on in situ fieldwork, describes Siwi grammar in greater detail than any previous publication, reporting many hitherto unattested constructions. The appendix includes a selection of Siwi texts spanning multiple genres – public speech, description, storytelling, poetry – and produced by speakers of different ages.
- "The Development of Dative Agreement in Berber: Beyond Nominal Hierarchies". Forthcoming in Transactions of the Philological Society.
Diachronically, agreement commonly emerges from clitic doubling, which in turn derives from topic shift constructions (Givon 1976) – a grammaticalisation pathway termed the Agreement Cycle. For accusatives, at the intermediate stages of this development, doubling constitutes a form of Differential Object Marking, and passes towards agreement as the conditions for its use are relaxed to cover larger sections of the Definiteness and Animacy Scales. Berber shows widespread dative doubling with substantial variation across languages in the conditioning factors, which in one case has developed into inflectional dative agreement. Examination of a corpus covering 18 Berber varieties suggests that low Definiteness/Animacy datives are less likely to be doubled. However, since most datives are both definite and animate, these factors account for very little of the observed variation. Much more can be accounted for by an unexpected factor: the choice of verb. “Say” consistently shows much higher frequencies of doubling, usually nearly 100%. This observation can be explained on the hypothesis that doubling derives from afterthoughts, not from topic dislocation.
- "Berber languages". Forthcoming in ed. Anthony Grant, The Oxford Handbook of Language Contact. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015?.
Like any other language family, Berber has been in contact with a variety of languages, and the relatively good early documentation of Mediterranean languages allows this contact to be traced back almost three millennia. Its contact with Arabic is particularly remarkable for the unusually wide range of examples of intense language contact phenomena that it provides, enabled by widespread fluent bilingualism. This article first summarises the long history of Berber lexical contact with languages as various as Egyptian, Phoenician, Turkish, and French, along with efforts to reverse it by creating neologisms. It then examines the far-reaching influence of Arabic on the morphology and syntax of most Berber languages, including even verbal inflection in one variety. Finally, a brief glossed text in Siwi illustrates the distribution of borrowings in discourse.
- "Songhay languages". Forthcoming in ed. Rainer Vossen, The Oxford Handbook of African Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Songhay is a language family of the Sahel with more than four million speakers, mainly in western Niger and northeastern Mali. In spite of its small population, its role in regional history has been substantial. Strong contact effects along the periphery have resulted in a remarkable situation where different varieties may have nearly identical basic vocabularies but conspicuously different typologies. Cladistic and lexical evidence shows that much of the observed variation reflects contact influences quite different from those obtaining today. After briefly detailing the distribution, history, and phonology of Songhay and the principal sources for its grammar and lexicon, this chapter examines morphology and syntax across the family. Particular attention is given to innovations distinguishing the three principal subgroups. Finally, the structure and history of the lexicon is briefly discussed, with an emphasis on borrowing as means of expansion.
- "Siwi addressee agreement and demonstrative typology". Forthcoming in ed. Catherine Taine-Cheikh, StuF 67:1, Berber in typological perspective, 2014, pp. 25-34.
Siwi shows gender/number agreement of medial demonstratives with the addressee. Such phenomena are cross-linguistically very rarely reported, and are not discussed in major surveys of the typology of demonstratives. However, within person-oriented demonstrative systems, such marking amounts to an iconic representation of addressee anchoring. The pragmatics of Siwi demonstratives thus cast light on the nature of the mapping from person to place that such systems reflect. Comparative eastern Berber data suggests that demonstrative addressee agreement may be more widespread than the literature reflects.
- "How to make a comitative preposition agree it-with its external argument: Songhay and the typology of conjunction and agreement". Forthcoming in Paul Widmer, Jürg Fleischer, and Elisabeth Rieken (eds.), Agreement in diachronic perspectives.
This article describes two hitherto unreported comitative strategies exemplified in Songhay languages of West Africa – external agreement, and bipartite – and demonstrates their wider applicability. The former strategy provides the first clear-cut example of a previously unattested agreement target-controller pair. Based on comparative evidence, this article proposes a scenario for how these could have developed from the typologically unremarkable comitative and coordinative strategies reconstructible for proto-Songhay, in a process facilitated by contact with Berber. The grammaticalisation chain required to explain this has the unexpected effect of reversing a much better-known one previously claimed to be unidirectional, the development COMITATIVE > NP-AND.
- "Archaic and innovative Islamic prayer names around the Sahara". Forthcoming in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies.
Berber in the Sahara and southern Morocco, and several West African languages including Soninké, Mandinka, and Songhay, all refer to the five Islamic daily prayers using terms not derived from their usual Arabic names, and showing striking mutual similarities. These names’ motivation has not hitherto been explained. An examination of Islamic sources reveals that many correspond to terms attested within Arabic from an early period which have passed out of use elsewhere. Others, with a more limited distribution, reflect transfer from a time-keeping system widely attested among Berber-speaking oases of the northern Sahara. These results demonstrate that the variant prayer terminologies attested in the hadith reflect popular usages that were still commonplace at the time when North Africa was conquered, and underscore the conservatism of non-Arabic Islamic religious terminology in and around the Sahara.
- "Explaining Korandjé: Language contact, plantations, and the trans-Saharan trade". Forthcoming in Journal of Pidgin and Creole Linguistics.
The intense Berber-Songhay language contact that produced Northern Songhay cannot be understood adequately without taking into account the existence of a Northern Songhay language outside the Azawagh valley – Korandjé, in Algeria – showing no significant signs of Tuareg contact. This article proposes a new explanation based on linguistic, epigraphic, and historical data: Western Berber-speaking Masūfa, present throughout northern Mali around 1200, founded Tabelbala to facilitate a new trade route; they chose Northern Songhay speakers, already a distinct group, for their experience in oasis farming and possibly copper mining. As Masūfa influence waned, the language was reoriented towards North Africa.
- "Writing 'Shelha' in new media: Emergent non-Arabic
literacy in Southwestern Algeria". In ed. Meikal Mumin and
Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Script in Africa: Studies on the Usage of a Writing System. Leiden: Brill, 2014.
This article examines the transcription choices and social purposes involved in the writing of non-Arabic local languages ("Shelha") in southwestern Algeria, including several Berber varieties and Korandjé, in the Arabic script, mainly online. Examination of the transcription choices suggests that 'Ajami' writing is a natural side effect of Arabic literacy, which can show significant homogeneity across individuals and languages without the practice itself ever having been institutionally taught. The contexts and purposes of the examples confirm that, in public contexts, Arabic remains the default choice, with 'Shelha' reserved almost exclusively for presenting language-specific form rather than translatable meaning; in private messages, however, 'Shelha' may still be used to emphasise solidarity, paralleling its oral sociolinguistic status.
- "Sub-Saharan lexical influence in North African Arabic and Berber". In ed. Mena Lafkioui, African Arabic: Approaches to Dialectology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2013.
This article discusses sub-Saharan loans in North Africa, many of them previously unidentified. While Hausa influence is most widespread, Songhay is a close second, and Manding and Kanuri have also played a role. Most loans are limited either geographically to the Saharan region or socially to the context of ex-slaves' music and organisations; however, four plant names have passed into general usage even in some coastal areas. Sub-Saharan influence on Ghadames Berber is particularly profound, including the borrowing of a new word class of ideophones.
- "Language and the Study of Africa", with Philip Jaggar. In ed. Thomas Spear, Oxford Bibliographies in African Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
This is an annotated introductory bibliography for African languages and linguistics, attempting to give at least some information on each family, as well as on more general questions of phonology, morphology, syntax, and orthography.
- "The Subclassification of Songhay and its Historical Implications". In Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 33:2, 2012.
This article shows, based on shared arbitrary innovations, that the Northern Songhay (NS) languages of the Sahara form a valid subfamily, and that Northern Songhay and Western Songhay (WS) together form a valid subfamily, Northwestern Songhay (NWS). The speakers of PNS practised cultivation and permanent architecture, but were unfamiliar with date palms; those of PNWS were already in contact with Berber and Arabic, and lived along the Niger river. This is compatible with two scenarios for the northerly spread of Songhay: A. NS spread out from an oasis north-east of Gao, and PNWS had been spoken in areas west of Gao which now speak Eastern Songhay; or B. NS spread from the Timbuktu region, and WS derives from heavy “de-creolising” influence by Eastern Songhay on an originally Northern Songhay language.
- Grammatical Contact in the Sahara: Arabic, Berber, and Songhay in Tabelbala and Siwa, PhD thesis, 2010.
This thesis examines the effects of contact on the grammars of the languages of two Saharan oases, Siwa and Tabelbala. These share similar linguistic ecologies in many respects, and can be regarded as among the most extreme representatives of a language contact situation ongoing for centuries across the oases of the northern Sahara. This work identifies and argues for contact effects across a wide range of core morphology and syntax, using these both to shed new light on regional history and to test claims about the limits on, and expected outcomes of, contact. While reaffirming the ubiquity of pattern copying, the results encourage an expanded understanding of the role of material borrowing in grammatical contact, showing that the borrowing of functional morphemes and of paradigmatic sets of words or phrases containing them can lead to grammatical change. More generally, it confirms the uniformitarian principle that diachronic change arises through the long-term application of processes observable in synchronic language contact situations. The similarity of the sociolinguistic situations provides a close approximation to a natural controlled experiment, allowing us to pinpoint cases where differences in the original structure of the recipient language appear to have influenced its receptivity to external influence in those aspects of structure.
- "The Western Berber Stratum in Kwarandzyey", in ed. D. Ibriszimow, M. Kossmann, H. Stroomer, R. Vossen, Études berbères V – Essais sur des variations dialectales et autres articles. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 2010.
By examining regular correspondences and vocabulary distribution, this article demonstrates that many of the Berber loans in Kwarandzyey (Korandjé) derive neither from the Berber varieties currently spoken near the oasis nor from Tuareg, but rather from the highly divergent Western subfamily of Berber to which Zenaga and Tetserrét belong. These loans are particularly conspicuous in the domains of herding, marriage, and religion. Their presence implies that Western Berber must once have been far more widely spoken, including areas near at least one of Tabelbala or the Niger bend. The principal sound changes that have affected Kwarandzyey are also examined.
- "Ajami in West Africa", Afrikanistik Online 2010.
This article examines the practice of adapting the Arabic script to write non-Arabic languages in West Africa, a form of literacy known as Ajami which remains widespread despite little or no government support. Among the methods found to be used to transcribe non-Arabic sounds, the "ajami diacritic" of Senegal and Guinea is of particular interest, appearing unmotivated from a narrowly linguistic perspective but readily explicable as a rational adaptation to the parallel educational system in which Ajami is typically learned.
- "Siwa and its significance for Arabic dialectology" (pre-review version), Zeitschrift für Arabische Linguistik 51, 2009.
Siwi is best known for being the easternmost Berber language, but includes a very substantial Arabic stratum. The q reflex of qāf and the final ʾimāla of -ā to -ī in loanwords alone suffice to establish that most of this influence derives neither from Bedouin dialects nor from the main Nile Valley dialects; instead, these link Siwa to other Egyptian oases. Some borrowed grammatical elements, notably lā "not" and qət ̣t ̣"ever", the actor noun formation a-CəCCēCī, and demonstrative agreement with the addressee, underline Siwi’s archaism relative to almost all modern Arabic dialects. The depth of Arabic influence on Siwi suggests very close social contact, and historical sources indicate an Arab presence in the oasis alongside Berber in the 12th century. The Arabic element of Siwi thus provides a new source of evidence on sedentary Arabic dialects that reached the region independently of the Banī Sulaym and probably prior to their 11th century arrival.
(Erratum: on p. 56, the phrases "in the aorist and intensive" and "and -ā in the perfect" should be deleted.)
- "The Typology of Number Borrowing in Berber", CamLing 2007 Proceedings, Cambridge 2007 (first presented at CamLing 2007).
In Berber, numerals are commonly loanwords from Arabic; some languages retain as few as one or two non-Arabic numerals, while others preserve a complete inventory. Closer examination reveals differences in intensity of borrowing even within single languages, depending on the numbers' functional usage. The languages in question are closely related to one another and are all influenced by varieties of Arabic, allowing what amounts to a controlled experiment, with similar contact situations in different areas yielding a spectrum of possible outcomes. Careful examination of this spectrum allows us to set up a typology of numeral borrowing in Arabic-Berber contact, showing how linguistic, social, and cognitive factors all affect the process of number borrowing and how synonymy may emerge as a transitional stage in the adoption of a new system.
- Explorations in the Syntactic Cartography of Algerian Arabic, MA thesis (SOAS 2006).
Using original data from the Dellys dialect, this thesis presents a preliminary map of some important points in the syntactic cartography of Algerian Arabic, mapping out some of the multiple DP-related functional positions to reveal a surface situation bearing strong similarities to those postulated by Beghelli and Stowell (1997) and Rizzi (1997). In both Algerian and Classical Arabic this structure is subject to a basic dichotomy that justifies some version of the traditional CP/IP distinction: positions below FocP are accessible to movement, while positions above it can be accessed only through the use of resumptive pronouns. A functional hierarchy of minimally six positions is required to account for the observed facts in a cartographical framework; these may be labelled as follows: TopP FocP AgrSP NegP NeutP VP.
- "Notes on the Algerian Arabic Dialect of Dellys" - Estudios de Dialectología Norteafricana y Andalusí, 2005.
The Arabic dialect of Dellys belongs to the little-documented urban north-central Algeria dialect group, and - like most such dialects - it displays traits unusual in pre-Hilalian dialects, in particular the retention of interdentals. Berber, Andalusi, and later Bedouin influence are all observable in its lexicon, and occasionally in its grammar. Lexically, the Dellys dialect is particularly noteworthy for its extensive retention of precolonial vocabulary relating to fishing and sea creatures, largely replaced by French loanwords in other towns of the region. This paper summarizes points of dialectological interest in a framework loosely based on Caubet (2001).
- "Broken Plurals – or Infixes?: The Case of the Algerian Arabic of Dellys" - Estudios de Dialectología Norteafricana y Andalusí, 2002.
This paper, written before I started the formal study of linguistics, presents an alternative analysis of broken plurals in Algerian Arabic in terms of infixation, combined with a description of the system for the Dellys dialect.
Erratum: Further investigation revealed that ṭəms (p. 33) refers to a rare type of fish rather than a seal.
There's also work in progress.
Conferences at which I've presented:
- 19 December 2013 – Réunion du GLECS, Paris, on "Redoublement clitique et contact linguistique en arabe".
- 12 November 2013 – AIDA 10, Doha, on "Clitic Doubling and Contact in Arabic".
- 11 October 2013 – Creating Standards: Orthography, script and layout in manuscript traditions based on Arabic alphabet, Hamburg, on "Why Kabyle never developed a standard Arabic orthography".
- 20 September 2013 – 46th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europae, Split, on "Adposition borrowing and complement position in Northern Songhay".
- 26 May 2013 – The Arabic Script in Africa 2, Brussels, on "Understanding a Decontextualised Ajami Manuscript".
- 24 May 2013 – Nilo-Saharan Linguistics Colloquium 2013, Cologne, on "Songhay lexica and the trans-Saharan trade".
- 21 March 2013 – Labex EFL seminar "Quantification, scalarité, pluralité", Paris, on "Numeral syntax in northern Songhay: The syntactic impact of language contact".
- 11 January 2013 – LACITO seminar, Paris, on "L'intonation en korandjé".
- 26 October 2012 - Journée d'étude internationale : Le berbère dans une perspective typologique, Paris, on "Les déictiques en berbère oriental".
- 5 October 2012 - Agreement from a diachronic perspective, Marburg, on "The Development of Indirect Object Agreement in Berber: Beyond nominal hierarchies".
- 26 January 2012 - Réunion du GLECS, Paris, on "Du redoublement clitique à l'accord : le cas du berbère".
- 9 December 2011 - Seminari di MNAMON, Pisa, on "Re-examining Libyco-Berber: how much do we know, and how does it fit into the family's subclassification?"
- 18 November 2011: Journée scientifique (LLACAN), Paris, on "Indirect object agreement in Berber."
- 30 September 2011: Journée d'études : aires linguistique (LACITO), Paris, on “Du Sahel au Maghreb : essai d'une histoire linguistique du korandjé, langue songhay loin de son aire d'origine.”
- 27 May 2011: African Arabic: Approaches to Dialectology, Milan, on “Sub-Saharan Influence on North African Arabic and Berber.”
- 26 August 2010: Workshop on pluractionality: towards a typology of verbal plurality, Leiden, on “Kwarandzyey and the Semantic Typology of Pluractionality.”
- 23-25 August 2010: 40th Colloquium on African Languages and Linguistics, Leiden, on “The
Subclassification of Songhay and its Historical Implications.”
- 18-21 July 2010: 6. Bayreuth-Frankfurt-Leidener Kolloquium zur Berberologie, Bayreuth, on “Siwi Indirect Object Agreement: Synchronic Description and Diachronic Perspectives.”
- 5-6 April 2010: The Arabic Script in Africa: Diffusion, Usage, Diversity, and Dynamics of a Writing System, Köln, on “Non-Arabic Arabic in Southwestern Algeria”
- 29 August - 4 September 2009: 1st Summer School of the Evolutionary Linguistics Association, Cortona, on "Oath Negation in Kwarandzyey" (poster)
- 17-21 August 2009: World Congress of African Linguistics 6, Cologne, on "Adposition Borrowing in Kwarandzyey"
- 13-16 July 2009: LFG09, Cambridge, on "Addressee agreement in Siwi demonstratives"
- 28-29 November 2008: 5000 Jahre Schrift in Afrika, Cologne, on "Ajami in West Africa"
- 8-11 October 2008: 5th International Colloquium on Berber Languages and Linguistics, Leiden, on "Kwarandzyey, the language of Tabelbala, and what it tells us about the history of Berber"
- 28-31 August 2008: AIDA 8, Colchester, about "Siwi and its significance for Arabic dialectology"
- 24-28 September 2007: ALT 7, Paris, where I spoke at the Typology of African Languages Workshop about "The Decay of Clitic Attraction across Berber: A Typological Overview"
- 27-29 August 2007: CALL 37, Leiden, about "Tondi Songway Kiini and the subclassification of Songhay"
- 20-21 March 2007: CamLing 2007, Cambridge, about "The Typology of Number Borrowing in Berber" (see above)
- 8-9 April 2005: CELCNA, Salt Lake City, where I gave a joint presentation with Laura Buszard-Welcher on "Building Virtual Speech Communities for Endangered Languages: The E-MELD Query Room"
- Oct. 2007 - Feb. 2008: Tabelbala, Algeria - working on Kwaṛandzyəy (Songhay, arguably Nilo-Saharan)
- Mar. 2008 - May 2008: Siwa, Egypt - working on Siwi (Berber, Afroasiatic)
- May 2012: Siwa, Egypt - working on Siwi
- Apr. 2013 - May 2013 : Tabelbala, Algeria - working on Kwaṛandzyəy
- David Harrison's When Languages Die. Reviewed in LINGUIST List (2007)
- Mena Lafkioui's Atlas linguistiques des variétés berbères du Rif. Reviewed in Afrikanistik Online (2007).
- Mena Lafkioui and Vermondo Brugnatelli (eds.), Berber in Contact: Linguistic
and Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Reviewed in Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 30 (2009), pp. 267-272.
- David Sudlow's Dictionary of the Tamasheq of North-East
Burkina Faso. Reviewed in Afrika und Übersee 90 (2008/09), pp. 306-308.
- Catherine Taine-Cheikh's Dictionnaire zénaga-français and Dictionnaire français-zénaga. Reviewed in Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 32.1 (2011), pp. 165-168.
- Claire Bowern's Linguistic Fieldwork: A Practical Guide. Reviewed in Language Documentation and Conservation 5 (2011).
- Karl-G. Prasse's Tuareg Elementary Course (Tahaggart). Reviewed in Afrikanistik Online (2011.)
- Lionel Galand's Regards sur le berbère. Reviewed in Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 34:1 (2013), pp. 186-198.
- Terence F. Mitchell's Zuaran Berber (Libya): Grammar and Texts. Reviewed in Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 34:2 (2013), pp. 305-308.
- Regula Christiansen-Bolli's A Grammar of Tadaksahak. Review forthcoming in Journal of Language Contact 7.2.
Miscellaneous linguistic stuff I've done:
- An overview and bibliography of Northern Songhay
- Korandje, at Sorosoro (FR, ES)
- Kwarandzyəy numbers summarised
- A cartographic bibliography of the Berber language family in Tunisia (Google Earth KMZ file), and how to make others like it
- Reduplication in Siouan (an MA essay)
- Ibn Hazm (11th cent.) on historical linguistics, language endangerment, and conlanging: 1, 2, 3 (and original text)
- Ibn Quraysh on Semitic (10th cent.) - and Ibn Quraysh's introduction
- A dire attempt to translate some of Alfiyyat Ibn Malik
- Observations about the grammar of Mpre (Ghana)
- My experience of N'Ko (Mali)
- Oropom Etymological Lexicon - a philological analysis in some depth of what unfortunately turned out to be a very dubious wordlist, allegedly of an extinct Ugandan language.
- An overview of Berber Qur'an translations
You can see an archive of my former homepage - notably including a Grammar of Algerian Arabic and a page on the various methods of Writing Berber Languages - on the Wayback Machine. Both contain some minor errors, and one has an inadequate bibliography; I haven't had time lately to bring them up to my current academic standards, but hope that they may nonetheless be useful to learners.