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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Workshop: "Genealogical classification of African languages beyond Greenberg" (February 2010)

A small international workshop aimed at discussing problematic parts of Greenbergs classification in the light of new research results. The workshop was held at the Department of African Studies on February 21 and 22, 2010.
Description
In the recent past, especially non-Africanist linguists have raised concerns about the reliability of the widely accepted Greenberg (1963) classification for African languages and the empirical evidence which underlie it, in particular when compared to standards applied in other philological disciplines and historical linguistics in general. This small international workshop aimed at discussing problematic parts of Greenbergs classification in the light of new research results. The discussion recognized commonly accepted standards for the establishment of genealogical relationships on all levels and the procedure in historical-comparative linguistics as laid out in such works as Nichols (1996), Campbell (2003), and Campbell and Poser (2008). The workshop assembled leading specialists who have been carrying out work relevant for this domain and reviewed their results with respect to still controversial genealogical affiliations in Africa. A lot of previous classificatory work has focused on lexical comparisons and, though to lesser extent, the accompanying establishment of regular sound correspondences. Since particularly Nichols (1996) strongly argues in favor of evidence from grammatical features, particularly of a paradigmatic nature, the workshop focused on this kind of data as evidence for or against a particular genealogical relationship.
References:
  • Campbell, Lyle. 2003. “How to show languages are related: methods for distant genetic relationship”. In Joseph, Brian D. and Richard D. Janda (eds.), The handbook of historical linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell, 262-282.
  • Campbell, Lyle and William J. Poser (eds.). 2008. Language classification: history and method. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 1963. The languages of Africa. Publications 25. Bloomington: Research Center in Anthropology, Folklore, and Linguistics, Indiana University.
  • Nichols, Johanna. 1996. “The comparative method as heuristic”. In Durie, Mark and Malcolm Ross (eds.), The comparative method reviewed: regularity and irregularity in language change. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 39-71.
Papers: