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Metaglossia: The Translation World
News about translation, interpreting, intercultural communication, terminology and lexicography - as it happens
Curated by Charles Tiayon
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Émile Benveniste: de la linguistique à la sémiologie

Un linguiste maître de l’enquête étymologique.

LINGUISTIQUE-SCIENCES DU LANGAGE

DERNIÈRES LEÇONS. COLLÈGE DE FRANCE 1968 ET 1969
Émile Benveniste, Julia Kristeva (préface), Jean-Claude Coquet et Irène Fenoglio (introduction)
Éditeur : EHESS/GALLIMARD/SEUIL
206 pages / 18,52 € sur
Résumé : Un linguiste maître de l’enquête étymologique.
Thierry PAQUOT

Quel amoureux de la langue française n’ouvre pas quotidiennement un des ouvrages d’Émile Benveniste, accessibles au néophyte, comme Le Vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes ou Problèmes de linguistique générale ? À chaque plongée, le lecteur ressort avec un trésor ! Ce savant est aussi l’auteur d’une œuvre plus technique, réservée aux spécialistes, mais il a toujours privilégié une écriture simple. Né à Alep (à présent ville martyre) en 1902, il arrive à Paris en 1913 pour étudier au “petit séminaire” de l’école rabbinique de la rue Vauquelin, obtient son baccalauréat en 1918, sa mère meurt en 1919, son père et son frère et sa soeur emménagent avec lui à Montmorency en 1922, pendant ce temps, Émile obtient une licence ès lettres, un diplôme d’études supérieures, l’agrégation de grammaire, la nationalité française (en 1924), le poste de précepteur des enfants de la famille Tata (industriels milliardaires) à Poona (Inde)…
En 1925, il cosigne trois articles dans L’Humanité et la pétition des intellectuels contre la guerre du Rif. Après son service militaire au Maroc, il est nommé, en 1927, directeur à l’École pratique des hautes études où il succède à Antoine Meillet. En 1935, il est docteur (Origines de la formation des noms en indo-européen), en 1937, il est élu au Collège de France, où il restera jusqu’à son attaque cérébrale de 1969. Prisonnier de guerre, il s’évade en Suisse et devient bibliothécaire à l’université cantonale de Fribourg. Son frère est déporté lors de la rafle du Vel’ d’Hiv’ et mourra à Auschwitz. De retour en France, il ne se ménage guère (malgré un infarctus en 1956) et déborde d’activités académiques (secrétaire de la Société linguistique de Paris, membre de l’Institut, directeur de la Revue d’études arméniennes, premier président de l’Association internationale de sémiotique). Il effectue plusieurs missions, en 1949 en Iran et en Afghanistan (il recueille des données sur cinq langues pamiriennes : suyni, iskami, sangleci, waxi et munji) et en 1952 en Alaska (où il s’initie à deux langues de la famille athapaske, le haïda et le tlingit). Une attaque cérébrale le paralyse et le prive de parole, il meurt en 1976, après avoir scandaleusement erré d’une institution médicale à une autre.

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WOCAL 7: African languages for development, education and cultural heritage

(August 2012) The 7th World Congress of African Linguistics (WOCAL 7) was held at the University of Buea in Cameroon 20-24 August. The theme of this year’s event was “Language description and documentation for development, education and the preservation of cultural heritage in Africa.” WOCAL, which takes place every three years, began in 1994 as an international gathering focused on a broad range of topics in African linguistics with a strong emphasis on the participation of African scholars. An opening keynote address was provided by Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo, Cameroon’s Minister of Higher Education.

More than five hundred researchers from around the world were expected to attend WOCAL 7, with more than two hundred presenting research, including twenty-nine staff of SIL and CABTAL,* a regional partner of SIL. SIL presentations of note include those by SIL President Dr. John Watters,
Dr. Mary Pearce, Dr. Ken Olson and Dr. Keith Snider.

Watters’ presentation, “Tone in Western Ejagham (Etung): Lexical tone on verb forms with segmental affixes,” built on his two previous studies of tone in the language. Ejagham is spoken in Nigeria as well as Cameroon, where Watters worked for many years.

Pearce and a group of linguists, students and members of local language committees from Chad led three poster sessions. The posters focused on features of Chadian languages and were developed by participants in a series of “Discover Your Language” courses. Many of the poster creators are members of the Chadian organization FAPLG,** which promotes language development in approximately twenty-five language communities of the Guéra region.

Olson and Snider both presented research on the speech sounds of African languages. Olson’s presentation was entitled “The geographic distribution of bilabial trills in Africa.” There is evidence that the distribution of the speech sound known as the bilabial trill is very similar to the distribution of several other linguistic features noted by previous researchers. These features are common in a certain area of Central Africa with a high level of contact between language groups. Snider shared his findings from “Vowel length in Chumburung: An instrumental study.” Chumburung is a Niger-Congo language spoken in Ghana.

CABTAL linguists Ndokobai Dadak and Jacquis Kongne Welaze, who both hold advanced degrees from the University of Yaoundé, presented research on grammatical features of the languages they work with. Dadak’s presentation, “Reduplication in Mafa and Cuvok, two Central Chadic languages of Cameroon,” examined the form, syntax and function of reduplication in these two languages, with observations on the role that this feature plays in the categorization of word classes. Dadak is a mother-tongue speaker of Mafa. Welaze’s presentation, “Documenting the information structure of the Tunen language,” described the significance of deviations from the language’s standard word order and the impact of those variations on information structure. Welaze’s conclusions were based on natural narrative, hortatory and expository texts collected in collaboration with native and fluent speakers of the Toboagn dialect of Tunen spoken in Ndikinimeki, Cameroon.

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Centre for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University

Forensic linguistics courses, research and expert evidence in cases of disputed authorship and contested meanings.
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Daniel Everett: 'There is no such thing as universal grammar'

The rules of language are not innate but are born of necessity, says Daniel Everett...

Daniel Everett is a linguist who is best known for his studies of the language of the Pirahã people of the Amazon basin. His new book, Language: The Cultural Tool (Profile Books, £14.99), explores his theory that language isn't innate but a tool developed by humans to solve problems.

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