LINGUIST List 23.5355

Wed Dec 19 2012

Calls: Writing Systems/Belgium

Editor for this issue: Alison Zaharee <>

Date: 18-Dec-2012
From: Meikal Mumin <>
Subject: Arabic Script in Africa: Synergies Resulting from the Study of a Writing System
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Full Title: Arabic Script in Africa: Synergies Resulting from the Study of a Writing System Short Title: TASIA2
Date: 25-Apr-2013 - 27-Apr-2013 Location: Brussels, Belgium Contact Person: Meikal Mumin
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site:
Linguistic Field(s): Writing Systems

Call Deadline: 30-Jan-2013

Meeting Description:

Following up on a scientific workshop originally hosted at the Institut für Afrikanistik, Universität zu Köln, Germany (April 6-7, 2010), TASIA2 will be hosted by the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). The workshop will continue to explore different aspects of the use of Arabic based script for the writing of languages in Africa, apart from Arabic, which is also known as Ajami.

Please note: There will be no conference fee. The organizers will offer two lunches during the conference, as well as an ending cocktail. Costs of accommodation & travel must be covered by the participants themselves, but the organizers will try to assist in finding transport & accommodation to the venue.

Call for Papers:

We invite papers in English or French which discuss the use of such scripts and orthographies within their socio-cultural context with a focus on linguistic, socio-linguistic, or psycholinguistic aspects, of both current and past use.

We particularly welcome any papers with a comparative approach as well as papers, which point to or summarize tentative sub-fields of research, which could produce synergetic effects through collaborative research on different writing traditions. Specific questions could include:

New Insights into the Use and Spread of Arabic-based Scripts:

- How many languages use or have used Arabic-based script and how?
- When and for how long was Arabic-based script used for which languages, and which languages employ it today or have started re-employing it?
- How many documents were produced?
- What are the contents and genres of such documents?
- How did these literacies come into being? Were those writing traditions created on the basis of Arabic or another Arabic-based script tradition, or were they created artificially?

Grammatological Properties of Arabic-based Scripts:

- How and why do these Arabic-based scripts deviate from the Arabic script as used for Arabic?
- How does African use of Arabic-based script deviate from the use of Arabic-based script for other languages beyond Arabic, such as in Europe, the Americas, or Asia?
- Are any adaptations arbitrary or motivated?
- Are there areal trends or features among the adaptations and are these possibly inspired by common regional, pan-African, Arabic, or other uses of Arabic-based script?
- Can we pinpoint such areal features to common origins?
- Have these orthographies ever been standardized?
- If not, could the non-standardization possibly be motivated?
- How well do Arabic script-based orthographies represent their respective language(s)?
- Can all phonemes be represented and how ambiguous are these representations?

Sociolinguistic Properties of Arabic-based Scripts:

- What is the relationship between written and spoken language?
- Do the written varieties differ from the spoken ones?
- Are any such possible differences between written and spoken varieties stable across writers?
- How should we classify any possible differing written varieties?
- What is the relationship between actively competing writing systems?
- How does the competition between writing systems interact with the language varieties of the written texts?
- To what extent are or have such writing traditions been used within specific contexts or domains of communication? Have these writing systems been used beyond the individual or religious domain, such as at state-level, in political contexts, for advertising, in book publishing or newspapers, on mobile phones or using computer interfaces?

Aspects of Applied Linguistics of Arabic-based Script:

- What is the relationship between literacy in Arabic-based scripts and Islamic Educational Systems?
- What is the relevance of literacy in Arabic-based script in the context of general literacy in Africa?
- What is the relevance of literacy in Arabic-based script in the context of language strengthening & language revitalization?
- How do current high-level regional language development policies and strategies deal with and affect the use of Arabic-based script?
- What is the role of religious institutions (Islamic, Christian and others) on the use and spread of Arabic-based script?
- What is the role of technology in the context of Arabic-based script? Is it being represented in handwriting only, or are texts also typeset manually or represented in digital media, such as using computers, in text messaging, or on the Internet?

Identifying Areas of Future Research in the Context of Arabic-based Script:

- What can we learn from the study of Arabic-based script, beyond the intrinsic data?
- Should certain writing traditions be prioritized over others due to cultural change?
- In which fields of research could we expect synergetic effects from collaborative research?

In the concluding discussions, we would like to discuss in particular the scope, range, timeframe, and possibilities of funding for possible collaborative research between participants as well as further colleagues in the field.

The symposium will be accompanied by an exhibition of some exemplary manuscripts, which should demonstrate the range and scope of these writing systems for general audiences. For this we would welcome any submissions of digital copies of manuscripts, which are free for rights and whose quality would suffice for reproduction in larger formats, together with brief comment about the contents. For any further questions, please contact the organizers at by January 30, 2013. The file should contain your name, position at or affiliation with a university or research team, as well as an abstract for the talk itself. The entire text of the file including references must not exceed 250 words. Results of the selection process will be announced by email by February 20, 2013.

A copy of this call is available online at

Page Updated: 19-Dec-2012