LVC Schedule for Fall 2015

For the Fall 2015 quarter, LVC is pleased to announce the following talks and workshops. All will be held on Fridays from 3:00-4:30 in Rosenwald 301.

October 9th: Fieldwork recap session, part one (members of the Chicago linguistics dept.)

October 30th: Fieldwork recap session, part two (members of the Chicago linguistics dept.)

November 6th: ELAN workshop featuring Jordan Fenlon & Jon Keane (University of Chicago)

December 4th: Itxaso Rodriguez (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Title TBA

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Complementary indexicalities: gaze, pointing, and conversational scaffolding in an emerging sign language


In this workshop presentation, I will introduce “Z” (Zinacantec Family Homesign), an emerging first generation sign language from a Tzotzil (Mayan) speaking community in Chiapas, Mexico, and the ways I have tried to study it over the past seven years or so. I will concentrate on the structure of attention in Z conversation and the foundational importance of two general formal devices for managing mutual attention: pointing and gaze. Adapting somewhat Du Bois’ aphorism (1985) that “grammars code best what speaker do most” I will sketch very briefly some of my own previous work on the grammaticalization of attention in Z, turning, as time permits, to evidence in the signing and socialization of the first (and perhaps only) second generation signer of standards of well-formedness and the formal regimentation of mutual attention as central to the emergence of this new language.



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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
“The morphology of compound tenses in Ndebele”

Friday, May 8th: Professor Jerrold Sadock (Department of Linguistics, University of Chicago)
“West Yiddish: The Extinct Ethnolect of German Jews”

Tuesday, June 2nd: Katie Franich (Department of Linguistics, University of Chicago)
11am: Wieboldt 130
“Finding the Beat in a Tone Language”

Friday, June 5th: Professor John Haviland (Department of Linguistics, UC San Diego); joint presentation with the Semiotics Workshop
1:30pm: Social Sciences 122
“Complementary indexicalities: gaze, pointing, and conversational scaffolding in an emerging sign language”

Monday, June 8th: Professor Petra Goedegebuure (Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations & the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago)
3:30pm: Rosenwald 432
“The rise of split ergativity (or rather split accusativity) in Hittite”

Tuesday, June 9th: Adam Singerman (Department of Linguistics, University of Chicago)
12pm: Rosenwald 011

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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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