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Typology and annotation of information structure and grammatical relations

coordinator: A. Mettouchi
coordinator: M. Vanhove


Studies on information structure have been booming in the recent past, both in generativist and laboratory phonology and from functionalist-cognitivist approaches. Many of those studies are based on written corpora of well-known, often European, languages, or on elicited data (see however Van Valin & LaPolla 1997, Van Valin 2008, Zimmermann & Féry 2010, Fiedler & Schwartz 2010). At the same time, an increasing number of grammars of lesser-known languages have been published, and annotated corpora of various genres of oral discourse in under-described languages are being developed by field linguists, including the members of this project. Some such corpora are already accessible online (e.g. Lacito Archive, DoBeS and ELDP corpora, ANR project CorpAfroAs...)

These new data allow for a crosslinguistic and empirically based study of phenomena underrepresented in earlier studies, such as the optional marking of syntactic arguments for discourse-pragmatic reasons (known e.g. from Australian, Tibeto-Burman, Mon-Khmer languages, as well as some languages of East Africa and South America) or the systems in which morphological marking on the verb reflects the ranking of event participants on a referential hierarchy (e.g. Native American and Tibeto-Burman languages). 

The data, being in the form of textual corpora (as opposed to databases of sentences or questionnaires), allow for the study of information structure in connected discourse: such phenomena as word order variation in the clause and beyond, discourse topics vs. sentence topics, clefting, morphosyntactic vs. prosodic focus etc. will be the target of fine-grained investigations. 

This project assembles experts of a broad range of geographically and genealogically distinct languages and language families (Afroasiatic, Tibeto-Burman, Austroasiatic, Native American).  We are investigating information-structure related phenomena and their interaction with language-specific phenomena like optional argument marking or hierarchical alignment, thereby paying particular attention to areal and diachronic factors.


Members of the project


Bernard Caron (Pidgin-English, Zaar (Chadic, AfroAsiatic))

Amina Mettouchi [co-PI] (Kabyle (Berber, AfroAsiatic))

Tatiana Nikitina (Wan (Mande))

Elsa Oréal (Egyptian (AfroAsiatic))

Stéphane Robert (Wolof, Kerak (Atlantic, Niger-Congo))

Mark Van de Velde (Myene (B10, Narrow Bantu))

Martine Vanhove [co-PI] (Beja (Cushitic, AfroAsiatic))

Odette Ambouroué (Myene (B10, Narrow Bantu))


Sokhna Bao-Diop (Bainunk (Atlantic, Niger-Congo)) (until 2012)

Maria Khachaturyan (Mano (Mande))

Valentina Schiattarella (Siwi (Berber, AfroAsiatic))

Roula Skaf (Syriac (Semitic))

Alexandra Vydrina (Kakabe (Mande, Niger-Congo))

+ Associate member

Stefano Manfredi (Juba-Arabic (Creole), Baggara Arabic (Semitic)) (Postdoctoral position for GD1 (Feb 1, 2012-Jan 31, 2013)



Claudine Chamoreau (Purepecha, Pech)

Katharina Haude (Movima)

Francesc Queixalós (Sikuani (Guahiban), Katukina (Katukinan))


Adriana Machado (Xavante (Je))

François Copin (Wayampi (Tupi-Guarani))

Doris Fagua (Ocaina (Witotoan))

Marie-Laure Coppolani (Nez-Percé (Sahaptian))

Tom Durand (Arawak)

Nonato Costa (Tupi-Guarani)

Daniel Aguirre (Embera (Chocoan))

Marta Pabon (Guambiano (Isolate))



Evangelia Adamou (Ixcatec (Popolocan, Otomanguean))

Anne Daladier (Khasi, Pnar, War, Lyngngam)

Alexis Michaud (Na, Naxi, Lazé).



Guillaume Jacques (Japhug Rgyalrong)