Unito - team of Turin

Principal investigator: Dario Nappo
Internal members: Mauro Tosco
Associate members: Graziano Savà

The group based in Turin counts on one historian and one linguist. Its goal is to be the link between the two units of Trieste and Naples. The main tie between the members of the unit is their scientific interest for an homogeneous geographical area in Africa, delimited by South Egypt, Sudan (especially South Sudan), and the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia and Eritrea). Clearly, the methods used by the members will be different, according to the personal scientific project of each of them. On the one side, the linguist, in cooperation with the experts from Naples, will be mainly interested in studying the changing linguistic scenario nowadays attested in the newly born state of South Sudan, documenting and analyzing the languages spoken in the area. The historian, along with the colleagues of the University of Naples “L’Orientale”, will focus on the political and military relations in the area of the Horn of Africa, since the first to the sixth century AD. The element that makes the unit consistent, from the point of view of methodology, is the importance of the “first hand sources” in our work. On the one side, the analysis of a living language; on the other, a work based on archaeological evidence.

Role of the team and its approach.

The unit of Turin has strong methodological and research ties with the two others. Its role is to work along with both of them and to play as a link between them, integrating the woks pursued by the other ones. From this point of view, it is an experimental cooperation between disciplines which normally have very little in common. The strongest tie between the historical and the linguistic part of the team is definitely methodology. Both linguistic and historical projects are dominated by the importance of fieldwork research, as it is clear from the reading of the case studies. Briefly, they aim to shed new light on the historical and social dynamics of a specific area in Africa, in order to enhance our understanding of the complex cultural heritage of it. Case study 9) “Peripheries of an Empire. Th role of the peoples in the Horn of Africa in the Roman vision of the world (first – seventh century AD)”. Dario Nappo will pursue this research, autonomously, with a general analysis on the political and economical dynamics taking place in the Horn of Africa since the first to the seventh century AD, but with a special focus on the fifth and the sixth centuries. In this area there was a confrontation between two states in antiquity. On the one side, the Byzantine Empire, heir of the power and culture of the Roman; on the other hand, the Aksumite Kingdom, a consolidate power, indigenous, with its own expansionistic agenda in the area. The research project aims to describe how, in the period taken into account, the relationships between this two actors became tighter. Many cultural and economical connections made Aksum closer to the Byzantium’s area of influence. The conversion to Christianity, the use of some of the Byzantine economic standards, consolidated the cohesion between the empires. This phenomenon led to the creation of a sort of an experimental “Commonwealth” between Byzantion and Aksum, whose features are not clear, and will be the object of this study.

Dario Nappo


PhD in Ancient History at the University of Naples “Federico II” (2008). His main subject has so far been the commercial relation between the Roman Empire and India, since the first century BC to the seventh AD. Because of the expertise gained through his PhD studies, he now chooses to focus on the new theme he presented for the project ATrA.


Mobile: +39 34035753136

Mauro Tosco


Professor of African Linguistics at the University of Turin. His main area of research is the Horn of Africa, where he has been working on the analysis and description of underdescribed Cushitic languages in an areal and typological perspective. Among his books: A Grammatical Sketch of Dahalo, including texts and a glossary (Hamburg, 1991), Tunni: Grammar, Texts and Vocabulary of a Southern Somali Dialect (Köln, 1997), The Dhaasanac Language (Köln, 2001); The Gawwada Language (in preparation). A native speaker of an endangered language himself, he works on the expansion and revitalization of minority languages, language policy and ideology. Pidgins, creoles and language contact (Pidgin and Creole Languages: A Basic Introduction; München, 2001; with Alan S. Kaye) are his third main domain of research.



External members

Graziano Savà


Graziano Savà, born in Syracuse (Sicily) on 21st August 1973, is a linguist specialized on the languages of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. The main theme of his research activities is documentation and description of minority and endangered languages of Ethiopia based on intensive fieldwork. His research concentrates in Southwest Ethiopia. Chaha, a Semitic language, has been the object of his first research for the MA thesis at “l'Orientale” University in Naples, Italy. It is a lexical and ethnobotanical study on the cultivation and use of Ensete ventricosum or “false-banana tree”. At “l'Orientale” he studied and learned Amharic, the language he normally uses for his field research. He is presently involved in a lexicographic project on this languages and published an article on the development of didactic techniques. Graziano Savà is the author of the only grammatical description and two descriptive articles of endangered Ts'amakko (Cushitic), as the result of his PhD at the department of African Languages and Cultures, Leiden University. The North Omotic language Dizi is object of a postdoctoral contract at “l'Orientale”. The aim was the edition of the first grammatical sketch of this language dating 1939. This is an on-going research that he is finalizing in the context of ATrA. Savà has co-authored a grammatical sketch of endangered Ongota (12 speakers, unclassified) and written a sociolinguistic overview on this language. He is also the author of an article on the influence of Ts’amakko in Ongota. Ongota is the object of a full documentation project financed by the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Programme, based at SOAS, where he was principal investigatore and postdoctoral grantee. He was also the principal investigator and postdoctoral grantee in a project on the documentation and description of Bayso and Haro, two Afroasiatic endangered languages of South Ethiopia, financed by DOBES-Volkswagenstiftung. He has collected data and co-published a descriptive article on the South Omotic language Hamer. Other research activities (often in collaboration with Mauro Tosco) have been devoted to the classification of Ongota, language standardization, i.e. an overview of the new orthography of previously unwritten Ethiopian languages, language endangerment, i.e. an overview of the endangered languages of the Afroasiatic family, and african material culture with the creation of a website on endangered material culture of Ongota and Oromo (both Ethiopia) and Kulango (Ivory Coast). Finally, for two years he was Associate Professor at Addis Ababa University Linguistics Department and is producing a documentary on his own activities for the documentation and possibly revitalization of Ongota.