I’m currently completing my third year as a PhD candidate at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes études (Practical School for Higher Education, based in Paris EPHE), attached to the Laboratory of African Languages, Speech and Culture (LLACAN, Paris), under the co-direction of Amina Mettouchi (Director of Studies at the EPHE) and Martine Vanhove (Research Director at the National Centre for Scientific Research, CNRS).
My thesis is entitled « Arabic and Berber in the Babors mountains (Eastern Kabylie, Algeria): a contribution to the typology of language contact ». It deals with a situation of linguistic contact dating back thousands of years between a variety of Arabic (Jijel) and Berber (Tasahlit) in a mountainous massif of north-East Algeria.
Through a typological analysis of language contact languages in this region, my goal is to characterize the dynamics of multilingualism in the Babors region on one hand, and on the other, in so doing, better define the history of the interconnections sustained by the different populations in this area of intense contact. My theoretical approach is enriched by several disciplines such as historical linguistics, linguistic geography, and dialectology.
Simultaneously, I have also begun to publish works that focus on the description of grammatical features of the languages of Eastern Kabylia. I have also created several audio-visual corpora in different linguistic varieties of the Babors, in order to document cultural practices and local ethnobotanical knowledge. Thus, I aim to contribute to the preservation of the linguistic and cultural heritage of the Babors, while building a valuable multilingual lexical and grammatical database.
I applied for this exchange between the EPHE and the Maison Française d’Oxford in order to gain access to the Bodleian Library’s exceptional resources. Indeed, the Oriental collections are repositories of documents relating to North Africa and the Middle East which are extremely valuable for my research: ancient maps, archives of Western travellers, manuscripts of historians from the Arab world, etc. In particular, I want to consult the work of Thomas Shaw, a multidisciplinary researcher who has done important work not only on Arabic dialects but also on the history and geography of North Africa.
I would also like to take advantage of my stay in Oxford to visit the National Archives in London, which contain unpublished material on Berber, such as the work of James Richardson, whose collections of phrases in Tuareg are yet to be published.
Could you please tell us a bit more about your scholarship/exchange programme?
I came to the Maison Française d’Oxford thanks to a quarterly academic exchange program offered by the Practical School for Higher Education (EPHE) and the Maison Française d’Oxford. The program allowed doctoral and post-doctoral students to come to Oxford for at least three months, and possibly extend it by two months.
In the context of this exchange, I am considering a merger with the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics, in which there is a historical and comparative linguistics branch, a discipline that pertains to my research.
First impressions of Oxford/the University?
Oxford is both a charming and impressive city, with all the prestigious colleges and its well-preserved architecture. Its libraries are just beautiful and extremely rich. Urbanity rubs shoulders with nature, which offers a very relaxing setting. I think that I will spend a very intellectually prolific stay here.