Laboratorio di Linguistica
'Giovanni Nencioni'

















Endangered languages documentation



Coordinator: Pier Marco Bertinetto

Staff involved: Luca Ciucci, Irene Ricci, Emanuele Saiu

External collaborators

Gabriella Erica Pia (Ministero Degli Affari Esteri and Università degli Studi di Torino)


We are nowadays facing a dramatic loss of languages. By the end of this century a substantial share of the presently spoken languages will die out. This is the inevitable fate of languages only spoken by the elder speakers, unable to pass it on to the next generation. But even those minority languages which still present an apparently sound situation, due to the relatively large number of children using them, might be severely endangered. The environmental pressure can at any moment cause the shift to the colonizing language, at the expense of the heritage one.
One of the fundamental LABLIN’s research lines is devoted to endangered language documentation. It is inspired by the linguists’ mission to try and reduce the effects of this gloomy perspective, by at least producing reliable descriptions of as many endangered languages as possible.

Ongoing projects

Zamuco languages

The focus is on the Zamuco languages, spoken in the Gran Chaco territory between Bolivia and Paraguay. Of all the Zamuco languages that might have existed in the past, two are still spoken: Ayoreo and Chamacoco. Our study aims at documenting and describing these languages.

The Mòoré language

The Mòoré language is the majority language of Burkina Faso, but still suffers from dearth of descriptive data in both verbal morphology (see Verbal features)and phonetics, with special regard to the vowel system (see Speech perception and production).

Italian dialects

The dramatic loss of languages does not only concern distant and exotic territories. The same is occurring in Italy where, in quite a number of cases, the last speakers of various local vernaculars are due to pass away in the relatively near future. It is thus urgent to document the linguistic competence of these speakers, in order to reduce the impact of this silent cultural catastrophe. With this in mind, the dialect sof Cológnora in Valleriana and Gombitelli (province of Lucca) are targeted in a dedicated study.
Similarly, the special project is inspired by the purpose of documenting and safeguarding the dialectal varieties of the Italian territory.



PhD dissertations

In progress

Emanuele Saiu: Northern dialects in the Lucchese area (Cológnora in Valleriana and Gombitelli).


Luca Ciucci: The morphosyntactic structure of theZamuco languages (Ayoreo, Chamacoco and Ancient Zamuco).



Italo-Americana. Linguisti italiani e lingue native del Sud America (IV convegno) 2013

Italo-Americana. Linguisti italiani e lingue native del Sud America 2009


Recent publications

PIA Gabriella Erica 2014. Ensayo introductivo al diccionario antropologico ayoreo. Quaderni del Laboratorio di Linguistica della Scuola Normale Superiore - Occasional pubblications.

BERTINETTO Pier Marco 2012. Riflessioni diacroniche sulla categoria della persona nelle lingue Zamuco. In F. M. DOVETTO, V. MICILLO & E. MORLICCHIO (eds.), Traguardi e prospettive nelle scienze del linguaggio. Roma: Aracne. 197-215.

BERTINETTO Pier Marco & Luca CIUCCI 2012. Parataxis, hypotaxis and para-hypotaxis in the Zamuco languages. Linguistic Discovery 10,1: 89-111.

BERTINETTO Pier Marco 2011. How the Zamuco languages dealt with verb affixes. Word Structure4,2: 215-230.

CIUCCI, Luca & MUYSKEN, Pieter C. 2011. Hernando de Alcocer y la Breve declaración del Arte y Bocabulario de la lengua del Ynga conforme al estilo y vso de la provincia de Quito. El más antiguo manuscrito de quichua del Ecuador. Indiana 28, 359-393.

BERTINETTO Pier Marco, Luca CIUCCI & Enrica Gabriella PIA 2010. Inquadramento storico, etnografico e linguistico degli Ayoreo del Chaco. In R. AJELLO, P. BERRETTONI, F. FANCIULLO, G. MAROTTA & F. MOTTA (eds.). Quae omnia bella devoratis. In memoria di Edoardo Vineis. Pisa: Edizioni ETS. 109-146.

BERTINETTO Pier Marco, Irene RICCI & Na ZHI 2010. Le nasali sorde dell’ayoreo. Prime prospezioni. In F. CUTUGNO, P. MATURI, R. SAVY, G. ABETE & I. ALFANO (eds.), Parlare con le persone, parlare alle macchine. La dimensione interazionale della comunicazione verbale.Atti del VI Convegno dell’ Associazione Italiana di Scienze della Voce. Torriana: EDK Editore.

CIUCCI Luca 2010. Morphological evidence for Zamucoan: the case of possessable nouns. Relazione su invito al Typology Research Colloquium. Institut für Linguistik, Universität Leipzig, 3 giugno 2010.

BERTINETTO Pier Marco 2009. Ayoreo (Zamuco). A grammatical sketch. Quaderni del Laboratorio di Linguistica della Scuola Normale Superiore 9,1.

CIUCCI Luca 2009. La flessione verbale del Chamacoco. Quaderni del Laboratorio di Linguistica della Scuola Normale Superiore 8.

CIUCCI Luca 2007/08a. Indagini sulla morfologia verbale nella lingua ayoreo. Quaderni del Laboratorio di Linguistica della Scuola Normale Superiore 7.

CIUCCI Luca 2007/08b. Sulla morfologia nominale dell’ayoreo: genere e numero. Quaderni del Laboratorio di Linguistica della Scuola Normale Superiore 7.

last up-dating: January 2015




Speech production and perception

Prosody and Phonotactics

Verb Features

Experimental Pragmatics and Neuropragmatics

Morphosyntactic Investigations

Endangered languages

Corpora building and maintenance









Diccionario antropologico ayoreo

Gabriella Erica Pia