PhD research: Chikunda in Time and Space: A historical sociolinguistic account

October 2023 to September 2026
cultural vocabulary
comparative method
language evolution
Research fields
Cultural Sciences
History and Archaeology
Languages and Literatures

This PhD explores the historical-sociolinguistic components of the OriKunda ANR project (PI Rozenn Guérois), which aims at revising the history of the Chikunda people and language from the origins to the present day. More particularly, it first focuses on social and linguistic variation in existing Chikunda dialects and examine how this variation is structured (in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

This research involves the study of intra- and extralinguistic variables. Then it focuses on lexical variation and, based on the Words and Things method, which relies on both the Comparative method as well as diachronic semantics, it will analyze cultural vocabulary linked to warfare, slavery, trade, and hunting in Chikunda (all of which relates to many aspects of the Chikunda's daily social organization) and compare vocabulary items with those from contact languages of the lower Zambezi River in order to check distributions, (possible) reconstructions, and (possible) evolutions of meaning.

The research heavily relies on field surveys. A variationist-sociolinguistic corpus will be drawn up with several speakers of each Chikunda variety. Language facts and practices will be scrutinized and analyzed based on following concepts and methods of variationist sociolinguistics. Fieldwork will also serve to collect lexical data related to the semantic field of war, slave, trade, and hunting in Chikunda. Perusal of databases, dictionaries, and grammatical descriptions of other Central Mozambican languages will feed the comparative analysis.