Nicholas Evans

Nicholas Evans dirige le CoEDL (Australian Research Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Languages) à l’Australian National University (Canberra). Il a travaillé sur un large éventail de langues aborigènes australiennes et papouasiennes en tant que linguiste, anthropologue, et interprète.

Il a écrit à la fois sur les langues aborigènes – notamment des grammaires et des dictionnaires – et sur des sujets de linguistique générale, surtout en typologie, linguistique historique, morphologie, sémantique, multilinguisme et les processus qui favorisent la diversification des langues.


1) «Papuan languages: an overview of the Papua-sphere and the Southern New Guinea region »

  • Lundi 2 mars, de 14h à 16h, Salle 7, EHESS, 105 bd Raspail, 75006 Paris

This talk will give an introduction to Papuan languages in general, and the Papuan languages of Southern New Guinea in particular, insofar as this can be done for a diverse group of around 860 or so languages, representing around 43 families and 36 isolates, stretching in an arc from Timor and Nusa Tengara through the large island of New Guinea and southeastward into the Solomon Islands. The extraordinary diversity of this region will be underlined – comparable to the whole of Eurasia, but shrunk onto 1% of the world’s land surface and supporting around 0.1% of the world’s population – with illustrations from the phonological and grammatical systems, and the main genetic groupings will be outlined. The last part of this talk will focus on the specific situation in Southern New Guinea, itself one of the most diverse parts of this hyper-diverse region of the world.

2)  «An introduction to Nen: overall typological profile »

  • Mardi 3 mars, de 10h à 12h, Salle 13, EHESS 105 bd Raspail, 75006 Paris

This lecture will give an introductory typological profile of the Nen language, setting it in the context both of the language family it belongs to (the Yam, or Morehead-Maro, family) and of Southern New Guinea as a region. Topics to be covered include: phonology, case system including ergativity, pronouns, split S-agreement on the verb, sketch of syntactic properties including grammatical relations, word order, non-finite constructions and phasal auxiliaries, and the centrality of informational unification (particularly between pronouns, TAM particles and the inflected verb) to the functioning of Nen morphosyntax.

3)  «The Nen verb: a study in morphological complexity»

Conférence invitée du SeDYL, CNRS, Villejuif  (invitant Enrique Palancar)

  • Vendredi 6 mars, de 10h à 13h, Salle de conférences, Bâtiment D, CNRS, 7 rue Guy Môquet, 94800 Villejuif  (métro Paul Vaillant Couturier, ligne 7)

Verbs are the most complex part of Nen grammar, with several distinct verb classes (copulas, positional verbs, middle verbs, transitive verbs and ditransitive verbs all having distinct behaviour) and inflect, maximally, for the following features: subject person and number, (indirect/direct) object person and number, tense/aspect/mood (over sixteen categorial combinations), direction, and iteration. Transitive verbs can have thousands of distinct inflected forms. ‘Distributed exponence’ means that information from several distinct sites on the verb (both prefixal and suffixal) needs to be integrated with material from free pronouns and verbal particles before inflectional values can be determined. As well as surveying the main properties of the Nen verb, I will illustrate the evolution of distributed exponence (and thus of paradigmatic arbitrariness more generally) for one inflectional value, namely the process of ‘combinatoric opportunism’ which has given rise to a fourth (large plural) number value by exploiting different ‘unused and illogical’ combinations of morphs in different verbal classes.

4) «The genesis of linguistic diversity: Southern New Guinea as a natural laboratory»

  • Vendredi 17 avril, de 10h à 12h, Salle A06_51, EHESS, 54 bd Raspail 75006 Paris

A key question for linguistics is to understand where linguistic diversity comes from – whether it be in terms of numbers of languages, of families, or of structural diversity. In addition to developing better tools for describing the base phenomena, and then quantifying diversity on different measures, a vital part of our answer will turn on studying parts of the world where linguistic diversification is still ongoing, so that we can formulate testable hypotheses about what processes are at work and how these relate to cultural, demographic, linguistic and other factors. Southern New Guinea, as I will show, is an ideal laboratory for this because it is a region of great linguistic diversity in which virtually all languages are still being transmitted to children, and in which populations retain traditional patterns of multilingualism, and in which the effects of inter-group and cross-linguistic contacts can be studied right down to the level of the individual, at which changes ultimately originate. I will focus in this talk on the methods employed by our Wellsprings of Linguistic Diversity and Languages of Southern New Guinea projects,  both qualitative and quantitative, both typological and sociolinguistic, to understand the forces that have driven diversification in this region.