LVC schedule for spring 2015

Hello everyone! For the Spring 2015 quarter, LVC is pleased to announce the following talks. Please be attentive to start times and rooms.

Friday, April 17th: Asia Pietraszko (Department of Linguistics, University of Chicago); joint presentation with the Workshop on Language, Cognition, and Computation
3:30pm in Rosenwald 011.

Friday, May 8th: Professor Emeritus Jerrold Sadock (Department of Linguistics, University of Chicago)

Tuesday, June 2nd: Katie Franich (Department of Linguistics, University of Chicago)
11am: Wieboldt 130

Friday, June 5th: Professor John Haviland (Department of Linguistics, UC San Diego); joint presentation with the Semiotics Workshop — TIME AND ROOM TBA

Monday, June 8th: Professor Petra Goedegebuure (Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations & the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago)
3pm: Rosenwald 432

Wednesday, June 10th: Adam Singerman (Department of Linguistics, University of Chicago) — TIME AND ROOM TBA

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Professor Cristoph Harbsmeier (University of Oslo) at LVC on Thursday, March 12th!

“Strategies of Literacy among the Dungan of Central Asia”
Professor Cristoph Harbsmeier

Thursday, March 12th, @ 4PM in Social Sciences 401.

Christoph Harbsmeier

Discussions about literacy tend to be about the difference literacy makes to cultures.

The present talk is about the crucial difference it makes not only what kind of alphabetic or syllabic writing system is adopted, but especially what general type of writing system (Chinese-type morphemic versus purely phonetic) is chosen. I shall discuss the cultural politics and the linguistic impact of such choices between writing systems in the history of the Dungan language in Kyrgyzstan.

Throughout most of the twentieth century research on Dungan has been predominantly in Russian, the language with which Central Asian Dungan has always been in a close symbiotic relationship. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union Chinese linguists have paid sharply increasing attention to Dungan linguistics.

Both the Russian and the Chinese linguistic scholarship will be shown to have had significant political motivations.

The choice among the writing systems will be shown to be closely linked to strategies of ethnic self-construal among the Dungan people in Central Asia.

The University of Oslo hosts a fairly comprehensive public database on Dungan affaors designed by Ivo Spira:

Here it will be seen that Dungan printed literature is extensive. Much of it is now conveniently available on-line.

Ivo Spira has organised an important conference on Dungan Studies in September 2014:

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Dr. Pia Lane @ LVC on Friday, March 6th!

Dr. Pia Lane (University of Oslo)
Minority language standardisation – methodological approaches

Pia Lane

I will investigate the standardisation of Kven, a Finnic minority language spoken in Northern Norway. Kven got recognised as a language in 2005. Influenced by the global focus on language revitalisation and the new status of Sámi and minority languages in neighbouring countries, many Kven wish to reclaim their language, and currently, a written standard is being developed.

Developing a standard for a minority language is not a neutral process; this has consequences for the status of the language and how the language users relate to the new standard. An inherent problem with standardisation is whether the users themselves will accept and identify with the standard chosen. Standardisation changes the conditions and scope for human agency, and therefore, social actors are key factors when standardising minority languages. I will use an ethnographic approach to address how minority language users relate to standardisation processes (Lane 2014), focussing on the role of social actors (Scollon and Scollon 2004). For this presentation, I will draw on and compare different types of data such as sociolinguistic interviews, discussions in social media, reactions of Kven speakers when reading Kven for the first time and participant observation as a member of the Kven Language Council.

Language standardisation usually has material outcomes such as texts resulting from the standardisation process (text books, grammars and dictionaries), and also linguistic forms included in in the standard. Such objects may be seen as results of actions that have been performed at some point in time by an individual (Norris 2007). By applying the concept of frozen action to language standardisation, language standards are analysed as mediated actions, a result of social actions performed in the past. Accordingly, a nexus analysis of social practices shows how language users embrace, accept and contest discourses of revitalisation and language standardisation to varying degrees and for a wide range of reasons.

Lane, Pia 2014. Minority language standardisation and the role of users. Language Policy 10.1007/s10993-014-9342-y
Norris, Sigrid.2004. Analyzing multimodal interaction: A methodological framework. New York: Routledge.
Scollon, Ron and Suzie Wong Scollon 2004. Nexus analysis: Discourse and the emerging internet. London: Routledge.

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Professor Marianne Mithun @ LVC on Friday, February 13th!

Professor Marianne Mithun (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Language Variation and Change in Multilingual Contexts


Most of the world is multilingual. There is now increasing awareness that language contact, the co-existence in one brain of multiple languages, can affect all aspects of those languages. Traditional language documentation has often been focused on ‘pure’ forms of the language. But if we are to understand how and why languages take the shapes they do, it is also important to document languages as they are spoken in multilingual contexts. Here varying effects of layers of contact are examined on a language indigenous to California, from prehistoric to modern times. Much can be learned from multilingual speakers exploiting their full inventory of linguistic resources.

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LVC Schedule for Winter 2015

Hello everyone! For the Winter 2015 quarter, LVC is pleased to announce the following talks. Please be attentive to start times. All talks will be in Stuart 102 except for Professor Harbsmeier’s, which will take place in Social Sciences 401.

Friday, January 16th @ 3PM in Stuart 102: Martina Martinovic (Dept of Linguistics, University of Chicago)

Friday, January 30th @ 2PM in Stuart 102: Laura Horton (Dept of Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago)

Friday, February 13th @ 2PM in Stuart 102: Professor Marianne Mithun (Dept of Linguistics, UC Santa Barbara)

Friday, March 6th @ 2PM in Stuart 102: Doctor Pia Lane (Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, University of Oslo)

Thursday, March 12th @ 4PM in Social Sciences 401: Professor Christoph Harbsmeier (Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo)

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Professor Pattie Epps @ LVC on Monday, November 10th (Pick 022, 3PM)!

Professor Patience Epps (University of Texas at Austin)
Linguistic diversity and language contact in Amazonia: tracing multilingual interaction in prehistory


While efforts to understand global patterns of linguistic diversity have explored a wide range of nonlinguistic correlates, associations with sociocultural patterns have generally tended to assume a correspondence between linguistic diversity and a lack of contact among groups. In this talk, I develop the hypothesis that the maintenance of extensive linguistic diversity in the Amazon basin has in fact been widely grounded in the dynamics of interaction among groups, as opposed to being simply a factor of isolation. I focus here on linguistic evidence for contact, drawing on an extensive survey of lexical and grammatical features across northern Amazonian languages. An evaluation of patterns of lexical borrowing, Wanderwörter, and grammatical diffusion suggests that multilingual interaction has been widespread in native Amazonia, facilitated by particular activities such as trade, intermarriage, and participation in networks of ritual practice, even while linguistic diversity has been maintained.

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