Coastal Guianas, Suriname Researcher: Konrad Rybka This project zooms in on the part of South America known as Guiana Littoral, and in particular on the northern part of Suriname and Guyana. In biophysical terms, this area is a patchwork of scrub savanna, primary rainforest and marshland sewn together by a connective network of waterways and draped over a rather unspectacular relief. This landscape has for centuries been home to a North-Arawakan people known as the Lokono (or Arawak), whose language and culture are highly endangered today. Besides being the first in-depth analysis of the linguistic and cultural import of spatial conceptualization of any Arawakan language, this project is innovative in focusing on the ontological status of landscape features as Objects or Places in the broader context of the Lokono grammar of space. The Lokono case, remarkable among Amerindian languages for the historical depth of the documentation of the language, allows us not only to describe the synchronic state of affairs but also to trace back its origins to the 18th century.
Titiwangsa Range, Malaysia Researcher: Niclas Burenhult This case study investigates landscape representation in the understudied and highly endangered Aslian languages, a branch of the Austroasiatic stock spoken in the Malay Peninsula, Southeast Asia. It targets four Aslian languages - Jahai, Menriq, Semnam and Temiar - all of which are spoken in and along the northern parts of the Titiwangsa Range, Peninsular Malaysia. These languages make up an interesting experimental setting: although they are closely related, they are spoken by communities displaying distinct subsistence systems and societal modes (band-based hunter-gatherers vs. tribal swiddeners) in varying environments (highland vs. lowland). The territory is mostly made up of dense mountain rainforest, broken up by countless streams and waterfalls. Previous work on Jahai shows that landscape lexicon can be organized according to elaborate models which structure and connect a range of grammatical classes and semantic resources. Landscape nouns, motion verbs, property verbs, positionals, toponyms, deictics, body and kinship metaphor, and loanwords all take part in the same semantic engine. Understanding this system is crucial to unlocking a wealth of information of wider linguistic significance - from metaphorical mapping strategies to the syntactic status of compounds and noun phrases, from borrowing patterns to historical semantic change - not to mention the remarkable insights it provides into Jahai culture and everyday activity.
East Timor Papuan
Eastern Tip, East Timor Researcher: Juliette Huber The area designated here as the Eastern Tip of East Timor politically includes parts of three districts: the Lautém district, the Baucau district and the Viqueque district. A comparatively large region, its landscape is varied, and three different settings will be focused on. The first of these is Iliomar, a subdistrict of the Lautém district. The area is very mountainous, with elevations ranging from sea level to almost 900 m. The subdistrict borders the sea south of Timor, which tends to be rough; hence most of the population is found some way inland. The subdistrict is heavily forested, being covered with tropical dry and moist deciduous forest, although agricultural land is scattered throughout the region. The majority of its inhabitants are subsistence farmers. The language spoken around Iliomar is Makalero, one of the westernmost Papuan languages. It has approximately 7,000 speakers. The second setting is centred around the town of Baucau, the second largest urban centre in East Timor. The town is situated at the island’s north coast, on a ledge characterized by striking rock formations, and there is a steep drop towards the beach. The sea here is much gentler, hence next to small scale farming, fishing is an important part of subsistence. Makasae, the Papuan language spoken in Baucau, is one of the major languages of East Timor, with some 90,000 speakers. It is very closely related to Makalero. Finally, the last setting is centred around Lospalos, the capital of the Lautém district, set on an inland plateau at an elevation of approximately 340 m. It is surrounded by agricultural land and grassland. Not far from Lospalos is Lake Iralalaro, a freshwater lake which reaches a considerable expanse during the rainy season, but shrinks during the dry season. Thanks to its presence, fish is a part of the diet in Lospalos, together with other local produce. The language spoken around Lospalos is Fataluku, a Papuan language related somewhat more distantly to Makalero and Makasae.
Schenkenberg Valley, Switzerland Researcher: Juliette Huber The Schenkenberg Valley is situated in the Brugg district of the Swiss canton of Aargau. It is approximately 5 km long, extending from the Aar (Aare) river in the east to the Staffelegg pass in the west. In the north and south, the valley is bounded by two High Chain Jura ridges. Elevations range from approximately 380 m above sea level to some 630 m. The villages Schinznach-Dorf and Veltheim occupy the entrance to the valley, near the Aar river. Further up along the course of the Talbach, which runs through the valley, are Oberflachs and Thalheim. Part of a fertile region, the valley was historically a sought-after possession, as evidenced by the Wildenstein castle in Veltheim, the Kasteln castle in Oberflachs, and, overlooking Thalheim, the ruin of the Schenkenberg castle. The latter sits atop the mountain of the same name, which goes back to the original owners of the castle, the patrician Schenken family. Next to mixed farming, viniculture has been an important part of the local economy since Roman times. Uncultivated land is covered by deciduous and mixed forest. The language spoken in the Schenkenberg Valley is a dialect of High Alemannic, or alternatively, an Aargau variety of Swiss German., Upper Siljan, Sweden Researcher: Felix Ahlner Upper Siljan is the area north of Lake Siljan in the Swedish region Dalarna (usually "Dalecarlia" in English). "Dalarna" means "The valleys", and the landscape of Upper Siljan is dominated by valleys and rivers running between the many mountains, some over 800 m (2.600 ft.) high. The area is heavily forested, mainly with coniferous trees, and interspersed with wetlands and small lakes. Linguistically, Upper Siljan is home to several related language varieties, strongly deviating from Standard Swedish. LACOLA research focuses on the varieties of Älvdalen and Orsa.
Great Sandy Desert, Australia Researchers: Clair Hill, Andrew Turk The Great Sandy Desert, located north-central Western Australia, is the second largest desert environment in Australia. It is typified by longitudinal sand ridges, chains of large salt lakes, occasional low rocky hills and swathes of spiky tussocks of Spinifex grass. Linguistically, the people traditionally living in the Great Sandy Desert are speakers of multiple Western Desert Languages (of the Pama-Nyungan family). Field-based research is being undertaken with Manyjilyjarra people who belong to the socio-linguistic Martu group who reside on western-central area of the Desert (in The Pilbara region). Most Manyjilyjarra speakers nowadays live in the communities of Punmu, Kunawarritji and Parnngurr, within and nearby to their traditional lands., Cape York, Australia Researcher: Clair Hill Cape York Peninsula is a large remote peninsula located in far north-eastern Australia, and is notable as a (relatively) unspoilt wilderness area – the largest in Australia and of global environmental significance for the diversity of habitats and species found there. Cape York Peninsula was traditionally home to 40 or so distinct languages (often comprised of a number of dialects and registers) of the Pama-Nyungan persuasion – thus, languages of this region group with the main phylic classification of Australian languages. Some Cape York languages are noted for unusual features within the Pama-Nyungan phylum, particularly for deviant phonological features. I primarily work on two mutually intelligible dialects, Umpila and Kuuku Ya'u, from a dialect group traditionally spoken on the north-east coast of the Cape. This language is moribund with only a handful of elderly speakers remaining today. Most of these speakers reside in Lockhart River Aboriginal Community, where the vernacular language is an English-lexifier creole. Formerly, the Umpila and Kuuku Ya'u people were semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers. Their settlement and movement patterns were seasonal, based on weather conditions and seasonal food supplies, with preferred habitats for dry and wet season camps. My research on Umpila and Kuuku Ya'u includes general linguistic and anthropological documentation and description, as well as specific areas of investigation, such as, grammar-discourse interactions (e.g. in reference formulation) and semantic typology.