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Linguistic Atlas of Afghanistan (ALA)

The Linguistic Atlas of Afghanistan – originally Atlas linguistique de l'Afghanistan (ALA) – was a massive and ambitious project undertaken in Afghanistan in the 1960s and 1970s. Its aims were to collect and analyse linguistic data from languages and dialects spoken in Afghanistan and adjacent areas, in order to publish a multi-volume "Linguistic Atlas" of the rich linguistic heritage of this area.


The project was directed by the Swiss scholar and linguist Georges Redard (1922–2005) in collaboration with the French linguist Charles Kieffer (1923–2015) and the Norwegian philologist Georg Morgenstierne (1892–1978). A group of researchers and assistants worked with data collection and analysis of the material for over two decades – including numerous research trips where over 250 sites in Afghanistan were thoroughly investigated.


For a variety of reasons, the project was discontinued in the 1980s – without even a single volume being published. At the occasion of his retirement in 1987, Georges Redard made sure that the materials were well kept for posteriority, but expressed his concerns about the future of the project (letter dated July 3, 1987).


In October 2018, a team from the Norwegian Institute of Philology (PHI) investigated the ALA archive at the Institute of Linguistics (Institut für Sprachwissenschaft), University of Bern. This mission was funded by the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies.


See photos from the investigation on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

The team discovered a rich archive of linguistic and ethnographic material from Afghanistan, including a comprehensive survey of dialects and languages, maps, photos and audio recordings. The Institute of Linguistics in Bern, which has meticulously preserved and protected this material for more than 40 years, generously gave the team full access to the materials and expressed their clear interest to facilitate further research on the material.


Following the October 2018 survey, the Norwegian Institute of Philology has initiated a project to revive ALA. The revival of the Linguistic Atlas of Afghanistan is a collaborative undertaking of academic institutions in Switzerland, Afghanistan, Norway, the UK and the US. The coordinating institution is the Norwegian Institute of Philology (PHI).

This website will present information about the developement of the project. For more information, please contact PHI or the project managers: Amund BjorsnesRachel Lehr and Florence Shahabi

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Norwegian Institute of Philology (PHI)
P.O. Box 2709 Solli

N-0204 Oslo

Org. nr. 885 754 562

Telephone: +47 954 01 754

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© PHI 2017–2018

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