Langues et civilisations
à tradition orale

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Presentation of Lacito



CNRS–Lacito is a Paris-based department focusing on the exploration of linguistic diversity across the five continents. Its name Lacito, for Langues et Civilisations à Tradition Orale (“Languages and cultures of oral tradition”), highlights our primary interest in the lesser-known, under­documented languages of the world, spoken by minority groups within multilingual countries. In many cases, these languages are threatened with extinction in the shorter or longer term, which makes their documentation all the more urgent. Through fieldwork investigation carried out among speaker communities, we strive to describe and understand languages in their broader social, geographical and historical dynamics.

Central to our quest is the issue of linguistic diversity. Historically, how did the 7000 languages spoken on the planet arise? What are the factors in the emergence of such linguistic diversity? But also, is this diversity really infinite, or is it contained within certain limits, constrained by certain universal parameters?


Our activities combine:

  • immersive fieldwork in language communities, with the aim to document and describe their linguistic practices;
  • academic research in linguistics, language typology and linguistic anthropology;
  • university teaching at both undergrad and graduate levels;
  • supervising Masters and PhD theses in our domains of expertise;
  • long-term archiving of language data and corpora;
  • outreach activities towards the general public, and communities of speakers.


Institutionally, Lacito is one of the laboratoires of CNRS, France’s national network of scientific research. We are linked with several French universities – particularly our official partners Paris Sorbonne nouvelle and INALCO. We also belong to a number of research networks.
This page lists all the current members of Lacito, with links to their personal pages. You can also gain an overview of our department’s structure with our organisational chart. Since July 2019, the head of Lacito is Alexis Michaud (contact: lacito@cnrs.fr).

→ If you wish to become a member of Lacito, see our suggestions.

alaune Areas of research

Since the foundation of Lacito in 1976, our members have been exploring at least 150 languages across the five continents. They are featured in the clickable, interactive map below.


Fig.The languages studied at LaCiTO

You can also find these languages listed alphabetically, or ranked by language families.
The language families covered at Lacito include the following:

  • Eskimo-Aleut
  • Finno-Ugric
  • Indo-European
    (Romance, Slavic, Indo-Iranian…)
  • Caucasian languages
    (Nakh-Daghestanian, Kartvelian)


  • Afro-Asiatic (Semitic, Berber, Chadic)
  • Nilo-Saharan
  • Mande
  • Songhay
  • Volta-Congo
    (Gur, Adamawa-Ubangi, Grassfields, Bantu)


  • Otomanguean (Mexico)
  • Dravidian
  • Sino-Tibetan, Tibeto-Burman
  • Austroasiatic, Mon-Khmer
  • Austronesian, Oceanic
  • some Papuan families


alaune Academic research

As they come back from the field, our researchers analyse their data and interpret them; this is when local observations can feed into more universal questions about linguistic structures, or social practices of communication across the globe.
Research at Lacito takes the form of scientific publications (see our recent books, or the catalogue of all our publications), participation in international conferences (including some conferences organised by LaCiTO), seminars (whether at Lacito or with our partners).
LaCiTO’s academic activities revolve around these three main research strands:

  • Language description and documentation: Field linguistics, corpus building, archiving
  • Typological and historical linguistics:  Understanding language diversity
  • Linguistic anthropology: Language use in its social context

→ see the detailed description of our research activities.

Our research activities are often carried out in relation with our partners, local or international:

  • Laboratory of Excellence (LabEx) Empirical Foundations of Linguistics
  • Fédération Typologie & Universaux Linguistiques du CNRS
  • Université Sorbonne Paris Cité
  • Agence Nationale de la Recherche


alaune Teaching and PhD supervision

LaCiTO's 2014 Summer school
“Methods in linguistics:
From empirical data to typological hypotheses”


Half of Lacito’s staff are university faculty (in Fr. “enseignants-chercheurs”): see their list here. Their primary affiliation is with their respective universities – whether Paris 3 Sorbonne nouvelle, INALCO, or others.
They teach different subdisciplines of linguistics at both undergraduate and graduate levels: general intro to linguistics, morphology, syntax, language typology, areal linguistics, linguistic anthropology… not to mention more specialised subjects such as Inuktitut or Bislama.
Here are a few links to the undergraduate programs (“Licence”) in linguistics proposed by our university partners in Paris:

Links to graduate programs (“Master”):

Even though our CNRS members have positions research-based positions, they also commonly teach graduate classes in areas of their expertise. → See our page on Teaching

PhD supervision

The number of PhD students enrolled at Lacito is usually between 35 and 40.
Technically, a student does not enrol directly with Lacito, but with a supervisor in a doctoral school (École doctorale) within a university. If the PhD supervisor belongs to LaCiTO, then the student is automatically affiliated with us.
If you wish to start a new PhD, you may contact one of Lacito’s potential supervisors:

Before contacting anyone on this list, please read carefully each supervisor’s academic profile to check that it is consistent with your doctoral project.
PhD students affiliated with Lacito receive information regarding seminars and other academic events, funding opportunities, and the general life of the department. They can access office space and printing facilities. Also, they can request financial support for travel, either for attending conferences or conducting fieldwork. Lacito also lends them fieldwork equipment if needed.
One thing that Lacito cannot provide are doctoral grants or stipends; but we are happy to host students who have secured external funding through other institutions. In recent years, PhD students have received grants from Labex EFL, USPC, Univ. Sorbonne nouvelle, Inalco, ELDP, Conacyt, among others.
We particularly encourage our PhD students to take part in our various seminars, in our summer schools and other teaching opportunities.


alaune Archiving and diffusing our fieldwork data


Once they are back from the field, a major activity of Lacito's linguists is to archive their valuable data. The aim is to preserve our field records in a permanent way, but also to make them available to the general public.
In 2017, we started an online library displaying our fieldwork photos; it is meant to grow in future years.

But our major archiving endeavour, for the last twenty years, has been to preserve our audio recordings – and more recently, video films – collected in our various languages of study. This was the source of our online archive called the Pangloss Collection.
A free, open-access media library, the Pangloss Collection brings together media files – mostly audio – originating in decades of fieldwork carried out by various researchers of Lacito or elsewhere. Pangloss currently hosts more than 3100 media files, representing about 140 different languages spoken across the planet. Among these files, more than a third are accompanied by text annotations: transcriptions, translations, often with interlinear glosses. These constitute rich corpora which can inspire and feed future linguistic studies.

Finally, Pangloss also includes other resources, in particular the Lexica collection of online dictionaries, which is currently growing.
Feel free to explore the Pangloss Collection, and discover its hidden treasures. Don’t forget to also contact us if you wish to enrich our archive with your own valuable recordings: we’re open to high-quality language data from all around the world.


alaune Publishing

LaCiTO’s researchers publish regularly, in various venues. You can access here the list of all of our publications.
aaMore and more these years, academic publishing has been moving towards free, open-access publications distributed online. Several of Lacito’s researchers have already begun to publish books or articles in such venues, making their work available to all audiences.
As of 2017, Lacito is creating its own academic open-access series, called “LACITO publications”. We are open to publishing high-quality (peer-reviewed) manuscripts in linguistics (including linguistic anthropology), grammars, dictionaries, monographs and edited volumes. More information will soon be released on this new publication outlet; in the mean time, please contact lacito@cnrs.fr should you be interested in publishing with us.


alaune More about Lacito

The various sections of Lacito’s website will help you discover the diversity of our activities. Don’t forget also to check out our blog Les Carnets du LACITO, or even – why not? – come visit us in Villejuif, near Paris.

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