The LACITO in a nutshell
(by F. Jacquesson; updated 16/10/2012)
a slide show in pdf or in pps to download
The LACITO is an interdisciplinary research laboratory, mainly devoted to the study of oral tradition languages and civilizations. On the administrative level, the LACITO is a "Mixed Research Unit", which means that it is administered both by the CNRS and by a university (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3). The LACITO also has close ties with the Sorbonne University and Inalco. All of these contribute to the LACITO's rich contacts in France and abroad. Currently, LACITO members belong equally to the CNRS and to the University. For more information, e.g. personal web pages of our members, associates, doctoral and post-doc students, see the Organizational Chart thumbnail . Access is easiest through the Directory; for information on administrative affiliations and governance, see the Administrative Structure thumbnail or the Organizational chart.
The Lacito is one of the partners of the labex Empirical Foundations of Linguistics (EFL) (More on EFL website)
Research – what kind and in what way?
The research we carry out at the LACITO – the details of which may be found on the Research page – concerns the world's languages, especially rare languages, as well as anthropology, in particular its aspects which relate to discourse phenomena. Our research is anchored in field work in numerous linguistic and cultural areas: Oceanic, Tibeto-Burman, Chamito-Semitic, Dravidian (details in French), Balkan, Bantu, Swahili… The Language and Country page gives an idea of the vastness and variety of the geographical domains covered.
After gathering fieldwork material from local populations, the next step is organizing the data (recordings, images, objects, field notes in various formats). Then the languages are described, in the form of grammars and dictionaries, and their various component parts are analyzed using the techniques proper to the various domains:
- linguistics (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics)
- anthropology (communicative interactions, relations to nature, culture, symbolism)
- social (interactions between groups of speakers, population dynamics, acculturation and borrowings, language attrition, language death).
This work partakes in the most up to date trends and debates in linguistics: language typology and historical linguistics, linguistic identity, dialectology and contact linguistics, areal and cognitive linguistics, pragmatics, and sociolinguistics.
The work carried out by the members of the LACITO is presented via numerous international conferences and publications. And naturally, as the LACITO has a long tradition of long term, fundamental research, the results are often published in the form of books or book chapters, in both paper and on-line editions. New publications are regularly announced on the home page of our website.
Another well developed domain at the LACITO is popularization and dissemination. Science is for everyone, but making it accessible is extremely tricky, and highly valuable. Over the years, our researchers have been doing their best in the domain. On our website, one may see examples of former, re-digitized, exhibits. One may also find the Lacito Picture (details in French), a reflection of our members' latest field trips.
Research: international contacts and networks
Many French and foreign researchers are invited to the LACITO for lectures and conferences. Several videos (in French) of these encounters may be viewed on our website.
The LACITO participates in several national and international projects, both as partner and as organizer. One cooperation framework is the ANR – the Agence Nationale pour la Recherche (the National Research Agency), where several projects are carried out with partner establishments abroad; an additional French research agency is the DGLFLF – the Délégation Générale à la Langue Française et aux Langues de France (General Delegation for French and the languages of France). There are many others, such as the European Science Foundation (ESF) or private foundations which support linguistic research.
Many of our CNRS researchers, as well as our lecturer-researchers of course, teach at university level. We also host numerous resident students, whose work we foster through fieldwork grants and facilities reserved for their use. They also have access to the well endowed on site library, the Centre de Documentation A.-G. Haudricourt.
The oral archives of rare languages
The LACITO has been a pioneer in the electronic documentation of languages: as early as 1999 the Oral archives program made sound recordings of numerous languages freely available on line, many from rare or recently extinct languages. The sound recordings are provided with their transcription, their translation, and most often their morphological analysis, and lexicons. We have put our experience to use in developing tools for archiving field data and for disseminating such data. These tools are made freely available to both researchers and the communities providing the samples.
Since 2012, our collection has been renamed Pangloss. Pangloss is itself part of a larger repository called Cocoon (for "Collections de Corpus Oraux Numériques", i.e. Collections of Digital Oral Corpora) – formerly CRDO-Paris. While Pangloss has a specific focus on endangered and under-documented languages, Cocoon is open to corpora in all the world's languages.
The LACITO has a sufficiently long history for the children of people we recorded far away in the field to come visit us to listen to the languages of their parents. Knowledge acquired in the past is still alive today; the memory of languages which the LACITO preciously preserves is at the disposal of all.
The LACITO's long history
The LACITO's long history begins in 1976, when the laboratory was founded by Jacqueline M.C. Thomas with the support of André-Georges Haudricourt. The laboratory has been subdivided into different groups or departments, the latest of which are: Anthropologie de la Parole (Anthropology of Speaking), Langue, culture, environnement (Language, Culture and the Environment), and Typologie et changement linguistique (Typology and Linguistic Change). The links lead to descriptions of past research operations.