Speaking about Boundaries. Multilingualism in Europe and the World
Graduate Conference at Munich University
16 – 18 February 2011
The doctoral programmes of Linguistics and Literature at Munich University invite you to hand in contributions to the interdisciplinary conference Speaking about Boundaries. Multilingualism in Europe and the World. The conference, which will take place in Munich from Wednesday, 16 February to Friday, 18 February, addresses the four following core areas:
I. Language of the self and of the ‘other’
Encountering the language of the ‘other’ may render one’s own language a potential ‘foreign language’. This panel invites reflections on what is alien in one’s own language and on the question what makes foreign languages alien. What do misunderstandings, non-understanding and the experience of language boundaries reveal about a person’s or language community’s capacity of language comprehension? It is not only the confrontation with foreign languages that makes one’s own seem foreign: The literary use of words, or simply the isolation of a single expression, can also lead to alienation. As Karl Krauss once put it: “The longer you look at a word, the more foreign it will look back (at you).” What literary techniques are responsible for such effects? Can alienation from one’s own language be described from a linguistic point of view? From an interdisciplinary perspective, the following questions are also relevant: Can such an alienation be observed increasingly for example in foreign language acquisition, and, vice versa, to what extent is it one’s mother tongue that influences learning success and strategies?
II. Power and resistance
Language encounters do not always take place between equal partners. In (post-)colonial contexts particularly, languages are used as an instrument of power. But even within Europe, political conflicts manifest themselves in the confrontation of ‘smaller’ languages with official national ones. For instance, how pertinent is Max Weinreich’s statement that a language is “a dialect with an army and a navy”? This panel deals with the role of minority languages, official languages and language prohibitions. How can one be kept separate from the other? How are political and social affinities defined through languages and dialects? What happens to the communities’ culture when a language is imposed on them? With what strategies do they confront the language of the oppressor? In the South-American and African postcolonial context, intertextually marked strategies of “writing back” play an important role; what also needs to be considered here is the question of whether there are similar attempts within Europe.
III. Language contact and hybridisation
The language confrontations leave traces, among them are creoles and other hybridisations of language, such as Spanglish in the context of the Latino-American diasporas in the United States. The “adoption” of single expressions due, for example to the international influence of English, also sheds an interesting light on the role of language contacts in periods of globalisation. In contrast to panel II, primarily the productive aspects of language encounters and acquisition are to be considered here. Translators and interpreters, in guiding the contacts between different language communities, hold an intermediate position in the network of power and linguistic creativity. Thus, they might become betrayers of their own and the foreign language, but they can also enrich and shape both languages and cultures at the same time. What is of interest in this panel, beyond the obvious influences of languages on each other, are the particular convergences that speakers are not immediately aware of. On a diachronic level, this could be, for instance, Sprachbund phenomena, or, on a synchronic level, assimilation strategies in actual discourse (for instance those of a phonetic-phonological nature).
IV. Artificial languages and language utopias
On the one hand, the term ‘artificial languages (in more than one sense)’ applies to the languages of arts – specific languages in a multilingual world. How do literary languages differ from other ones? On the other hand, ‘artificial languages’ are also planned, invented languages. Here, we are thinking of (utopic or concrete) conceptions of languages as reactions to multilingualism – such as universal languages, transparent object-languages, proto-language(s), meta-languages, ideas concerned with globally comprehensible planned languages like Esperanto or Volapük, secret languages, and also specific conceptions of literary language. Moreover, this panel aims at analysing the artificiality of several existing languages, for example the artificiality of academic languages (according to Thomas S. Kuhn) as languages which are in each case introduced by paradigmatic academic contributions and reproduced by textbooks, which are basically incommensurable and primarily attempt to limit multilingualism. Last but not least, this panel invites reflections on the political aspect in the constitution of artificial languages.
Abstracts containing a maximum of 400 words (including selected references) can be handed in by doctoral and post-doctoral candidates by the end of November 2010. Participants will be selected by mid-December. Presentations should take about 20 minutes (there will be time for discussion at the end) and may be delivered in either German or English. Selected contributions will be published in our languagetalks proceedings.
The panels will be opened by the following plenary speakers: Yaron Matras (Manchester), Manfred Schmeling (Saarbrücken), Ludwig M. Eichinger (Mannheim) and Ottmar Ette (Potsdam).
Please send your abstract to firstname.lastname@example.org by 30 November 2010.
Schellingstr. 7 / 210
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