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News

Website of the Atlas of Multilingualism of Daghestan Launched

Employees of the Linguistic Convergence Laboratory are working on an Atlas of Multilingualism of Daghestan. With support of the laboratory and the Collegium de Lyon a website was created recently, which can be used as a resource for the research of social and georgraphical particularities of multilingualism in Daghestan.

The website of the Atlas of Multilingualism of Daghestan contains a current database on multilingualism in Daghestan. At present the database contains information on 38 villages and over 4000 speakers. The Atlas has an interactive search interface which allows users to create graphs and diagrams themselves by selecting different parameters, such as the date of birth or the gender of informants, a particular language, village or even the height above sea-level of a location.

One of the projects of the laboratory is concerned with adding more data to this database and analyzing its contents ("Processing and analysis of data for the Atlas of Multilingualism of Daghestan"). Nina Dobrushina, one of the creators of the website and the head of the International linguistic convergence laboratory, talks about the project and its future development.

Tell us a little more about this project – when did it start and how are the data collected?

We started to collect these data in the mountain village Archib as early as 2011, just by asking people what languages they spoke and what languages their parents and grandparents spoke. The younger generation in Archib differs significantly from the older generation – they do not know the neighboring languages anymore – besides their native language they know only Russian. Whereas the older generation (i.e. those who grew up before the russification), spoke three, four or five languages besides their native language. This older generation and memories of the languages they knew are disappearing, which is why we have to capture these data as soon as possible.

Therefore, we try to collect data in five or six villages each year. We do this with the help of students, adding answers to an Excel table, codinng, counting, describing and creating maps. A lot of people participate in this project – their names are all on the website.

What do we need the online database for?

I would like for other researchers to be able to use our data. Part of the materials we can not publish, because they contain personal information, such as names, age, profession and literacy, but the quantitative data we can make available.

How will this project develop in the future?

The main goal is the release of a book "The Atlas of Multilingualism of Daghestan", which will feature the multilingualism in a number of Daghestanian villages. Each chapter will be dedicated to one geographic cluster of several neighboring villages; the chapter will contain a sketch of the cluster and quantitative as well as qualitive data and maps. We made examples of such chapters and added them to an article, which we have submitted to the journal "Languages of the Caucasus", in order to receive reviews from colleagues that will help us to improve the format of description.

We still have a lot of material to collect, though – so far we have been in 38 villlages, but for Daghestan this is not a lot. Many areas are not represented in our data at all, and we would like a more detailed view of Daghestanian language contacts. So we will continue to go on expeditions each year (the last expedition took place in July 2016).

Besides that, we constantly publish analyses of portions of the data. At the moment, for example, Sasha Kozhukhar (a research assistant of the laboratory) and I are writing about gender models of multilingualism – how knowledge of languages is divided among men and women and what happened to this division when the traditional situation started to change and speakers massively started to acquire Russian.

What are the plans for the near future?

We have a new expedition planned to the south of Daghestan, to Rutul and Lezgian villages and also to some Tsezic villages, which is completely new territory for us. We will collect new materials and add them to the database. Besides that, we plan to fill the site with some other materials as well. We are currently transcribing some very old publications from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, which contain census figures of Daghestanian (and other) villages. They also contain more detailed information on the population of these villages, such as gender and ethnical background. These data we will make publicly available online.