Layers of multilingualism and ideas of language

Posted on October 3, 2015 by

The second LEL Research Seminar of the semester will feature Prof. Friederike Lüpke of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, who will be talking about Layers of multilingualism and ideas of language. The talk is on Tuesday 6th Oct in Sam Alex A101 at 4.15pm, followed by drinks and dinner. Join us!

Prof. Lüpke has been shortlisted for an AHRC research in film award: Kanraxël – the confluence of Agnack, a film on multilingualism at her field site in Senegal. Here’s the trailer, as a taster for the talk!

And here’s the abstract:

Many multilingual settings world-wide are characterised by different layers of multilingualism. Precolonial settings in small-scale multilingual societies (in aboriginal Australia and indigenous settings in the Americas, in Melanesia and large parts of Africa) have been altered through an added polyglossic dimension operating at the level of the nation state and beyond. In the little known small-scale multilingual setting across the globe, social practices such as linguistic exogamy, child fostering, landlord-stranger relationships and other exchange mechanism as well as ritual language use create diverse societies in which languages are conceptualised very differently from settings where (standard) languages are associated with particular domains and ranked in hierarchical fashion. In this talk, I take the West African settings I am most familiar with to illustrate these layers of multilingualism. I then zoom out to compare similar small-scale multilingual societies world-wide to gain a first understanding of their commonalities and differences. I end the talk with the question what the different conceptions and social functions of language in these configurations entail for what it means to be a “language”, including how languages are construed as different and similar and how their interaction is ideologically framed.

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