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On the origins of Cikunda, “a language without a land” (Presentation of the OriKunda project)

Rozenn Guérois, LLACAN (African Languages and Cultures Laboratory) - CNRS, Paris

December 7, 2022 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 1-S-5 Green Hall

Program in Linguistics

In this talk, I will present the OriKunda project (April 2023 – March 2027, funded by the National Agency for Research, France), which aims to review the unique history of the Cikunda people (pronounced /ʧikunda/), from its genesis until today, through their language. Originally, the Cikunda were troops of Bantu-speaking slave soldiers from different communities who defended the “prazos” territories in central Mozambique during the colonial era. From a common social identity came an ethnic identity involving the creation of a language, Cikunda, resulting from intra-Bantu dialect and language mixing. With the collapse of the “prazo” system in the 19th century and the emancipation of the slaves, the Cikunda retreated westwards to the confluence of the Zambezi and Luangwa rivers, which today corresponds to the border area between Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The available sources on the Cikunda are merely historical, notably with the studies of historian Allen Isaacman. However, the unusual history of the Cikunda raises fascinating questions from a linguistic point of view, with possibly major repercussions for the historical narrative of this community. The OriKunda project aims to study the Cikunda language from a historical perspective, falling within three subdisciplines of linguistics, i.e. historical linguistics, anthropological linguistics and sociolinguistics. 


Rozenn Guérois is a researcher at LLACAN (African Languages and Cultures Laboratory) at CNRS in Paris.  She received her Ph.D. in Linguistics in 2015 from Université Lyon 2 Lumière, an M.A. in Linguistics from Université Paris 7 Diderot, an M.A. and Licence (B.A.) in English and Portuguese Language and Literature from Université Rennes 2.


Rozenn specializes in language documentation and description, with a focus on the Bantu languages of Mozambique, notably Cuwabo, Sena, and Cikunda. Her work involves intensive fieldwork, and extends to morphosyntax, comparative Bantu linguistics, typology, and contact linguistics. She has participated in two international projects on Bantu morphosyntax at SOAS (London) and at the university of Ghent. She is the recipient of a grant from the French National Research Agency (ANR) to document the Cikunda language in its historical and sociolinguistic contexts. Since 2020, she has been a member of the editorial board of the journal Linguistique et Langues Africaines (LLA). To learn more about her research, visit https://llacan.cnrs.fr/p_guerois.php.

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