SOAS University of London

Endangered Languages Archive

Dr Sophie Salffner

  • Research
  • Publications


Sophie Salffner

Digital Archivist

Endangered Languages Archive

Digital Archivist

Dr Sophie Salffner
Email address:
+44 20 7898 4524
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:


Sophie started her studies at Bielefeld University, Germany, taking a five-year Magister degree in German as a Foreign Language, English and Eastern European Studies. During that time, she came in contact with research on endangered languages in West Africa and then came to SOAS to take an MA in Language Documentation and Description and a PhD in Linguistics, where she worked on the tone system of Ikaan, an endangered Nigerian language.

She has since worked in the Linguistics and the Language Documentation and Description programmes at SOAS, where she gave courses and tutorials in Phonology, Phonetics and Technology in Language Documentation and Description. She has also worked at the University of Newcastle, where she taught Phonetics and Phonology to future Speech and Language Therapists. In 2010/2011, Sophie and four colleagues from two Nigerian Universities ran a British Council-funded curriculum development project, where they developed new modules for the MA courses in Language Documentation and Description.

For her postdoctoral research, Sophie is returning to Nigeria to investigate phonetic and phonological variation among the speakers of Ikaan and to document and describe knowledge, practices and traditions around food and farming and to work on the yam festival.

Sophie's research interests are in phonetics, phonology (in particular tone), language documentation and description, Benue-Congo languages, corpus linguistics and the overlap between linguistics and anthropology.


Sophie's main research interests are in phonetics and phonology, and in particular in tone. For her PhD research, Sophie investigated the tone system of Ikaan, an endangered Benue-Congo language spoken in Nigeria, and looked at the functions and behaviour of tone at the phonological, lexical and grammatical levels of the language. For her postdoctoral research, Sophie is turning to the segmental side of the Ikaan phonology. There, she has observed a range of variation at the phonetic and phonological level and will investigate this to describe and analyse the variation and correlate it with possible sociolinguistic factors.

Sophie is also interested in language documentation and description, in particular with the role and place of phonetics within this field of research, but also with the active involvement of the language community in the research in terms of training, research input and useful and suitable output. In this respect, she is also interested in the overlap between anthropology and linguistics and in collaborative research with anthropologists.

Because of the nature of her documentary and descriptive work, Sophie is also interested in corpus linguistics, especially in the development and exploitation of the comparatively small corpora that are developed during documentary work.

Sophie collaborates closely with colleagues in Nigeria, in particular the University of Uyo, Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba and the University of Ibadan. In 2010-11, she worked together with colleagues from Uyo and Akungba under a British Council grant to review the language documentation curriculum at Uyo and to develop modules in anthropological linguistics and in ritual communication. She is currently preparing collaborative follow-up projects for this joint work. Sophie also organises the London Phonology Seminar (SOAS and UCL) and a reading group on Ritual Communication held at SOAS.



Salffner, Sophie (2017) 'West African languages enrich the frequency code: Multi-functional pitch and multi-dimensional prosody in Ikaan polar questions'. Laboratory Phonology, (8) 1, pp 1-44.

Salffner, Sophie (2015) 'A Guide to the Ikaan Language and Culture Documentation'. Language Documentation & Conservation, (9), pp 237-267.

Salffner, Sophie (2007) 'Living with water scarcity. A tale from Africa'. SpandaNews: Newsletter of the Spanda Foundation, (1) 2, pp 13-14.

Book Chapters

Salffner, Sophie (2012) 'Tense, aspect and manner encoding in Ikaan beyond verbal inflection'. In: Blench, Roger and McGill, Stuart, (eds.), Advances in Minority Language Research in Nigeria. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, pp 137-190.

Rafferty, Wayne and Salffner, Sophie (2006) 'Once upon a time in a country far, far away …. Ritualisation and Ritualised Communication in African Orature'. In: Egbokhare, Francis and Kolawole, Clement, (eds.), Proceedings of the 24th West African Linguistics Congress. Ibadan, Nigeria: University of Ibadan, pp 243-254.

Conference Items

Salffner, Sophie and Sands, Bonny (2012) 'Why Ukaan is hard to classify' In: The Niger-Congo International Congress, 18-21 September 2012, Center for African Linguistics, Languages and Cultures, Paris.. [Unpublished]

Book Reviews

Salffner, Sophie (2003) 'Wie man mit Fundamentalisten diskutiert, ohne den Verstand zu verlieren: Anleitung zum subversiven Denken. München: Beck, 2001'. Informationen Deutsch als Fremdsprache, (30) 2/3, pp 266-267.


Gefter, Asya and Salffner, Sophie (2013) 'Children documenting language and culture: Games and toys in Ikakumo'.


Salffner, Sophie and Tzika, Maria (2012) 'Video tutorials for doing palatography'.


Salffner, Sophie (2012) 'Farming, food and yam: language and cultural practices among Ikaan speakers: an archive of language and cultural material from the Akaan people of Ikakumo (Ondo State and Edo State, Nigeria)'. [Unpublished]

Salffner, Sophie (2010) 'Ikaan and related dialects of Ukaan: an archive of language and cultural material from the Akaan people of Ikakumo (Ondo State, Nigeria)'.


Salffner, Sophie (2010) Tone in the phonology, lexicon and grammar of Ikaan. PhD thesis. SOAS, University of London. [Unpublished]


(2007) 'Ikaan riddles, proverbs and a story – Iwe owe, alo ati itan aroso ni ede Ikaan'.

McGill, Stuart and Salffner, Sophie (2007) 'Power solutions in the field: Solar power for laptop computers' ELAR advice document.


This list was last generated on Monday, 19th October 2020, 17:26 Europe/London.