Imperfective Modalities in Caucasian languages (IMMOCAL) / Modalités imperfectives dans les langues du Caucase (Project duration 48 months)

IMMOCAL focuses on linguistic typology and the documentation of understudied languages of the Caucasus. It consists of two complementary components:
1) collection, scientific editing and online publishing of narrative corpora of the oral tradition for ten languages, most of them endangered, belonging to three genetic stocks represented in the Caucasus, including (re-)publication of currently unavailable corpora and new collection in previously undocumented linguistic varieties;
2) the typological study of imperfective modalities by specialists of each language and sharing of results at scientific meetings, followed by dissemination and publication of the results, including input from other languages of the Caucasus, in a comprehensive overview of family-internal divergence and micro-areal convergence.
The sample of languages selected for the corpora (Kaytag Dargi, Tsakhur, Southern Rutul, Southern Lezgian, Kryz, Northern Talyshi, Muslim Tat, Eastern Armenian, Mingrelian and Western Laz) is balanced: five East Caucasian, three Indo-European and two Kartvelian languages.
These corpora will select traditional genres (folktales, anecdotes, proverbs and riddles) and will also include responses to an additional questionnaire of about 500 elicited sentences specifically aimed at the investigation of imperfective forms and the modalities they express, intended as a supplement to Dahl (1985). They will be appropriately glossed and translated, with all verb forms tagged, and searchable so that forms and contextualised examples can be retrieved:
Parallel texts will be looked up in available broader corpora and systematically privileged, while their equivalents will constitute the core of new corpora in as yet undocumented languages. The publication of both will be made permanent as a permanent webpage, and will become entirely open-access starting one year after completion of the project.
Fieldwork trips, investigation of the corpora and the scientific investigation of the data back home will focus on the modalities expressed by verb forms based on imperfective verb stems. All ten languages featuring in the corpora have aspect distinctions expressed on the verb stem, usually binary (perfective / imperfective), but ternary (perfective / imperfective / potential) in Rutul and Tsakhur. The Kartvelian languages Laz and Mingrelian also have a hybrid subclass of perfective verb stems used without perfectivising preverbs, which need to be considered along with genuine imperfective forms.
The description of modal distinctions within the imperfective domain will give rise to in-depth discussion in various domains of grammatical description, since it will need to account for – morphological structures and semantic distinctions; – variations at the level of morphosyntax, including differential case marking of nominal arguments (for instance in the case of the antipassive construction in Dargi, or aspectual splits in Kartvelian); – textual frequency and paradigm productivity; – as well as diachronic scenarios in the evolution of the domain, and changes possibly induced by contact with surrounding languages, whether genetically related or not.
The international team closely involves three doctoral students who will be supervised by the senior researchers, specialists of the domain. 36 months of postdoc positions will be funded by the project and awarded to young researchers specialising in the verbal morphology and semantics of Kaytag Dargi, Southern Lezgian, and Northern Talyshi. Targeted fieldwork on each of the selected languages will ensure accuracy in the editing, glossing, tagging and translation of the corpora and secure reliable new data. This will contribute to the elaboration of a comparative typology of verbal morphosemantic categories based on precise first-hand knowledge of natural linguistic data and enlarging the pool of specialists of East Caucasian, Iranian and Kartvelian languages.