1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Linguistic Anthropology Seminar -- 2017 - 2018

Fall 2017

Monday, September 4, 6:30 pm (Brooks Hall Commons)

Lise Dobrin and Ida Hoequist, University of Virginia

Grace East, University of Virginia

Welcome back! The first seminar of the new year will feature two summer field trip reports:

Ida Hoequist and Lise Dobrin will present on their 5-week visit to Arapesh country in Papua New Guinea, where amazing language phenomena were observed, fascinating storytelling events were recorded, and numerous kin relations were deepened and acquired.

Grace East will present on her time in Nima, a small zongo, or "stranger's quarter" (immigrant neighborhood) in Accra, with predominantly Muslim, Hausa-speaking Ghanaians and immigrants from across the region.

Monday, October 9, 7:30 pm (Brooks Hall Commons)

Julia Barnes, University of Virginia

Josh Wayt, University of Virginia

Julia Barnes will give an overview of her time spent in the Italian-Slovenian borderlands this summer with her younger sister. She will discuss her time spent learning Slovene as well as the surreal experience of collecting oral histories from opposing sides in two conflicts: the Second World War and the Foibe massacres--and problems with a biased translator.

Josh Wayt will present on his time visiting with fluent Dakota speakers at Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota. He will talk about the strange combination of humorous (especially self-deprecating) and sorrowful stories that pervaded these visits, and how elders used these narratives as a highly indirect advice-giving technique. Josh will tell some stories about making fun of himself, having a good cry, and receiving advice.

Monday, October 23, 6:30 pm (Brooks Hall Commons)

Vikram Jaswal, University of Virginia

Autism and Communication: About 1/3 of autistics do not use spoken language or do not use spoken language reliably. Why? What can we learn from those who have developed effective alternative ways of communicating? In this talk, I'll describe two on-going lines of research: One having to do with parent perceptions of their nonspeaking children's interest in social connection and communication, and another focused on characterizing and understanding alternative ways some nonspeakers have developed to communicate.


Friday, November 3, 3:00 pm (Brooks Hall Commons)

Sam Beer, University of Virginia

Balancing data collection methods in terminal speaker-based language description

Collecting linguistic data from terminal speakers inevitably causes a linguist to confront two problems: the data is often incomplete, with lexical gaps and hole-ridden paradigms, and the data is often unreliable, with attested forms changing from interaction to interaction. These problems surface to different degrees depending on the technique used to collect the data. Data collected by direct elicitation tends to be more complete but less reliable, and data collected by text collection tends to be less complete but more reliable. Using case studies from Nyang’i (Kuliak: Uganda), I account for these tendencies as reflections of differing interactional pressures on non-fluent speakers, and I demonstrate the promise of internal reconstruction as a technique for harmonizing data collected via the disparate methods.

Friday, November 10, 4:00 pm (Brooks Hall Commons)

Emiliana Cruz, CIESAS-DF and Comisariado de Bienes Comunales, San Juan Quiahije, 2015-2018

Chatino Language and Landscape

In this presentation I will share our experiences during collaborative efforts for the protection of the Chatino Language and Landscape. We carried out a project to document and promote the use of place-names and Sacred Places in our Municipality of San Juan Quiahije, Oaxaca, Mexico.

For the documentation, we hiked across the territory together with different members of the community, and made multimedia recordings of meaningful places. In each one, we registered its name, significant physical elements, memories, stories and practices related to the places. We are archiving the material in AILLA (The Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America hosted at the University of Texas, Austin).

To promote the use and knowledge of these areas we organized community activities that traditionally were held in these places but, in recent times, their practice had stopped. We focused on three very important Sacred Places: nten’F tiyu’G, keC reB and k’yaC kche’B. We placed signs with their names in Chatino and we also labeled some important plants and other elements of landscape. We are preparing pedagogical materials such as printed and digital maps to transmit the documented knowledge to younger generations.

We believe these are important efforts to make our language and cultural heritage visible. Yet, problems such as deciding whether or not to include Spanish names, insufficient resources for producing long-lasting signs, and dealing with different attitudes among our people about the relevance of these activities are some obstacles we dealt with and wish to address in this presentation.


Spring 2018

Tuesday, February 27, 7:30 pm (Brooks Hall Commons)

Kevin Petit Cahill, Ph.D. candidate, Université Lyon 2, laboratoire ICAR

The revitalisation of Irish in the 21st century:  Is the language turning into a tourism product?

Every summer, more than 20,000 Irish teenagers travel to the west of Ireland to learn Irish for a few weeks in language camps called 'summer colleges'. This popular activity actually dates back from the beginning of the 20th century, when the Gaelic League, an organisation for the promotion of the Irish language and culture, created immersion courses for Irish language learners in 'Irish speaking-districts' where communities of native speakers could be found. 

While the original objective of summer colleges was to bring back Irish as the vernacular of the Irish nation, some contemporary participants conceived their summer college experiences as a tribute to their national cultural heritage even though it did not lead to an improvement in their Irish language proficiency. This mode of engagement with the language is defined as post-vernacular by Jeffrey Shandler, which, he argues, "can be a liberating concept, prompting possibilities of language use other than the vernacular model of full fluency in an indigenous mother tongue" (2006:23).

In this presentation, I will analyse how and why the summer college experience is discursively constructed as a tourism product by camp directors, local children, professional marketing consultants, and governmental agencies. This case illuminates the economic and political aspects of the Irish language and helps us rethink revitalisation projects not just as vernacularisation endeavours in the name of cultural preservation, but as complex social movements made out of people with competing agendas.

Friday, March 16, 1:00 - 3:00 pm, reception to follow (Brooks Hall Commons)

Dr. Anna Marie Trester

Bringing Linguistics to Work

This workshop is designed to get students of Linguistics thinking about the transferable skills they are currently acquiring and how these apply outside the academy. The world of work needs critical thinkers who deal in abstractions and ambiguity. It needs cross-cultural competency and lack of prescriptivism, flexibility and adaptability, and readiness to embrace change and complexity. Perhaps more than anything, the world of work needs people who are trained to think in systems – people who see puzzles and can find the underlying patterns and processes that structure visible and apparently chaotic surface representations in any domain. We can take our skills and training anywhere, but only to the extent that we recognize them ourselves and make them understood.

Participants in this workshop will be given the tools to bring a linguistic perspective to the texts and interactions that structure their job search. They will hear about people who are bringing linguistics to work in non-academic settings. They will be given the opportunity to practice attending to the language they use in their professional self-presentation in resumes, cover letters, job interviews, and networking interactions. They will leave with a clearer sense of the many ways in which the skills they are cultivating in school may be applied to settings both known and not yet imagined.

Dr. Anna Marie Trester is an interactional sociolinguist who has worked as a trainer at the FrameWorks Institute, a social change communications firm, and served as director of the Language and Communication MA program at Georgetown University. She has published in venues such as Text and TalkLanguage and Society, and The Journal of Sociolinguistics. She is co-editor (with Deborah Tannen) of Discourse 2.0: Language and New Media(2013) and author of Bringing Linguistics to Work(2017). She received her MA in linguistics from NYU in 2002 and her PhD from Georgetown in 2008.

Wednesday May 9, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm (Brooks Hall, 2nd floor conference room)

The Language Immersion Model as Ideology and Practice

Saul Schwartz, University of Miami

Aspirational Immersion in Chiwere Language Activism

Creating immersion environments is a common aspirational goal for language activists working to revive Chiwere, a dormant Native American heritage language for the Iowa and Otoe-Missouria communities. The prospect of Chiwere immersion confronts a number of practical challenges, however, including a lack of fluent speakers and no community-controlled schools. Thus, it is not entirely clear who could create an immersion environment or where such an environment could be located, though some second language learners have experimented with home language nests. Drawing on my experience as a participant observer in one such language nest as well as conversations with other Chiwere language activists, I suggest that Iowa and Otoe-Missouria interest in immersion—despite obvious obstacles—reflects the ideological dominance of immersion in Native American language revitalization, which equates success with new speakers and new speakers with immersion. Given their lack of conventional immersion infrastructure, Iowas and Otoe-Missourias may be better served by other forms of heritage language engagement that do not revolve around developing new speakers. These alternatives come with challenges of their own, however, and must confront pervasive ideologies that fetishize fluent speech as the most legitimate form of linguistic existence and that privilege being (or becoming) a speaker above other modes of heritage language engagement.

Kevin Petit Cahill, Université Lyon 2, France

The Murder Machine, the Flemish Mother and the Irish Monk: The Birth of Immersion Education in Ireland

The beginning of the 20th century in colonial Ireland was a time of fierce debates and innovations regarding education. The Gaelic League, an organisation for the promotion of the Irish language, was pressuring the British government for the right to have bilingual Irish-English schools. But the eager Gaelic Leaguers did not wait for approval from London to start experimenting, and in 1904 they opened the first Irish-immersion course in the form of a “summer college” situated in the Irish-speaking district of the rural West.

Drawing from contemporary press articles and books, this presentation aims at unravelling the historical, ideological, and political conditions that enabled immersion education to become the model for language revitalisation in Ireland. First, Irish immersion was born from the rejection of the English-medium education system imposed in Ireland, which was qualified by a major Gaelic Leaguer as a dehumanizing “murder machine,” merely producing “manageable slaves” to the British Crown. The Gaelic League found inspiration for an alternative education system in Belgium’s bilingual education and its “natural” method for language teaching, which tried to imitate the way mothers taught language to their children. Finally, Gaelic Leaguers drew from the glorious Celtic-monastic system of Irish Colleges, which was believed to have preserved Catholicism and the Irish language during centuries of British occupation. More than a new efficient teaching method, immersion education was considered the first step in a wider societal project for the creation of a new “Irish-Ireland”.