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Ingush grammar, dictionary, and texts

Project summary: NSF grant SBR-9616448

Johanna Nichols, principal investigator

Ingush is a language of the Northeast Caucasian (or Nakh-Daghestanian) language family of the northern Caucasus in Russia. It is closely related to Chechen, with some mutual intelligibility. The language is of typological, theoretical, and comparative-historical interest to linguistics, as documented in the proposal.

There is no remotely accurate or complete description of Ingush; there is an Ingush-Russian wordlist but no dictionary; no way for Ingush to learn English except through the intermediary of Russian; and no way at all for an English speaker (or any other foreigner) to learn Ingush. The present Russian-based orthography so misrepresents the sounds of the language that even if an an otherwise excellent dictionary of the language did exist it would be near-useless for learning or interpreting the language.

The proposed project will produce the needed descriptive materials and make the importance and interest of Ingush better known to the world through scientific linguistic publications. It will produce a full-scale descriptive grammar, a bilingual Ingush-English, English-Ingush dictionary, and a set of texts, as well as several typological, theoretical, and historical publications. The budget provides for three years of graduate student support and for bringing Ingush speakers to Berkeley for field work. Graduate students and the PI will do field work, database work, analysis, archiving, and writing to produce a comprehensive description of the language.

The grammar will be a full, descriptively and typologically sophisticated reference grammar of Ingush. The PI’s pilot work has produced an all-ASCII phonemic transcription system in Latin script, which would also make a serviceable practical orthography, and project materials will use this system. The dictionary will contain full information on grammar (inflectional paradigms, case government, etc.), pronunciation, usage, and etymology. A networked electronic database version of the dictionary, continuously updated, will serve the university users; hard copies (preliminary pocket dictionary printout, then full published version) will serve the Ingush community, journalists, and others. Student publications will deal with questions of morphological and syntactic theory, typology, historical reconstruction, and description of Ingush.

Benefits will include improved problem sets and other materials for undergraduate courses (in linguistics and in courses on post-Soviet nationalities, Eurasian history, etc.), student training and visibility, description of an important language, improved awareness of the Ingush language and culture among American and European linguists, access to English for Ingush speakers and vice versa, and testing and dissemination of the proposed practical orthography. The lexical database will be directly applicable to future work on closely related Chechen.

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