The Barefoot Linguist


Hi and welcome everybody! My name is “Barefoot Linguist” and this is my blog. Here I will be posting whatever I like and find interesting. Since I like languages (and scripts) most of all, the majority of my posts will be linguistics-oriented, I guess (but I don’t promise, as I might also digress to other subjects from time to time). That’s why (and also for the lack of imagination) this blog is simply called ‘Barefoot Linguist’, since this name unities all the different persons living in me and all my interests, not one interest specifically (e.g. ‘Berber languages’, ‘linguistics’, ‘Braille’, ‘ajami’, and so on). For strictly “Academic”, linguistics-oriented papers and articles, rather visit my page at Academia. This blog is supposed to be a bit b r o a d e r (and, hopefully, a bit less boring and more colourful).

So why blogging? First, because it is an easy and quick way for me to share information and to keep you informed about progress in my research (if any). Second, my main purpose is to learn rather than to teach. So I will use this blog to share some ideas, thoughts, questions, doubts, and I will appreciate your answers and feedback on my posts!

In short, this blog is supposed to be both educational and fun. So let’s get started, and I start with an ‘introduction’.

##Who am I?

So let me introduce myself (it is not for nothing that this post is called an ‘introduction’)! My name is Jenia. I was born and raised in Russia, but have been living elsewhere (The Netherlands, France, Morocco) and I am not quite settled yet. My major and most favourite occupations in life are: learning/studying, research, and travelling. Sometimes (especially when I have to) I do more useful things as well, but they are also more boring, so I will not bore you with those. :-)

So what have I been studying all this time? I first studied Linguistics in Moscow, then Assyriology (a/k/a Cuneiform Studies, or Ancient languages of the Near East, i.e. Mesopotamia and Anatolia) at Leiden University (The Netherlands). I graduated from Leiden with a Research Master in Linguistics: Structure and Variation in the Languages of the World (what a long title!). In the course of my Master’s programme, I specialised in Descriptive/Field linguistics, African linguistics, Arabic dialectology, and Berber languages. I am currently a PhD student in Linguistics in Paris (Paris 3) writing a thesis on Ketama/Senhaja Berber (North-West Morocco).

##My projects

Here is a “short” list of my various (past/present) projects (please let me know if you are interested to hear more about any of them).

###Fieldwork on Zwara (Lybian) Berber with immigrants in The Netherlands

Since Libya is not a safe place for fieldwork, I’ve been working with Libyan immigrants in Holland. My main informant for Zwara Berber is Kasas. He is a musician (guitarist) and a poet/ singer.

###Fieldwork on Eastern Moroccan Arabic

I conducted fieldwork in Eastern Morocco (in and around the town of Ain Beni Mathar, also known as Bergem, in the Jerada province on the border with Algeria).

###Sanusi Creed in Kabyle Berber

I am currently preparing my MA-thesis for publication. It is devoted to a Kabyle Berber manuscript on the Sanusi Creed (attributes of Allah). You can download my thesis here: Sanusi_Creed_Berber. I also wrote a short article on the same topic, see The Sanusi Creed in Kabyle Berber.

Fulfulde ajami manuscripts

I am currently writing a book with my friend and colleague Saajo Bah, devoted to Fulfulde ajami MSS (from West Africa, mainly from Nigeria). We are now busy with the analysis of three versions of the same poem, Mimsitaare ‘Forgivenes’ by Nana Asma’u (Nigeria, 19th century). For some preliminary analysis, see: Fulfulde_Ajami.docx.

Braille script and blindness

I am interested in the Braille script and Braille literacy (including the development of Braille literacy for Berber and of an affordable digital Braille converter).


Morocco has been my main area of interest and investigation for the past three years. In Morocco, I travel, meet locals, record their stories, take interviews, make photos and videos, investigate some language varieties and linguistic issues… Here are some specific topics/language verities that interest me the most.

  • Ketama Berber (Senhaja Srayer tribe): North-West Morocco: region of Ketama and Targuist.

  • Jbala Moroccan Arabic: North Morocco.

  • SL (sign language): the language of deaf people in Morocco, wherever I find them.

Other languages

Besides Arabic and Berber, I am also interested in (many) other languages (mainly spoken in Africa and in the Middle East, but sometimes I get distracted by other regions and continents, too). Some of my favourites also include Yiddish.

Baby talk in the Maghreb and beyond

I am currently working on baby talk in the Maghreb (and beyond). See devoted specifically to this question.

For comments or questions you can contact me via email at jenia at barefootlinguist dot com.