ILARA Invitations

“Why would you want to do that?” A lifetime of studying precious languages

Scott DeLancey, professor at the University of Oregon, is our first guest, for an exciting interview on his lifetime experience with rare and precious languages of the world.

Yilahdjarrkkarrewaniyan : Following the leg into the Dalabon meaning-world

Nicholas Evans, professor at the Australian National University, is the second guest in our Invitations series. He will unravel for us the mysteries and wonders of Indigenous languages of Australia, with a special focus on Dalabon.

The gem is in the details

Felix Ameka, Chair of Ethnolinguistic vitality and diversity in the world at Leiden University, is the third guest in our invitations series. He will unveil for us us the genius of West African languages: how environmental phenomena, temporal frames and quantification are expressed and what they tell us about worldviews.

A linguistic journey to the Caucasus – and beyond

Europe too has fascinating rare and precious languages… On Thursday, Bernard Comrie introduce us to striking features of Nakh-Daghestanian, Abkhaz-Adyghe and Kartvelian languages of the Caucasus.

Living languages: Amerindian verbomusical arts

Now is the time to discover the amazing verbomusical arts of the Kuikuro, an indigenous Amazonian people, with Bruna Franchetto. From the sung speech of ceremonial discourses and curing spells to the female songs that “translate” the male flutes whose view is forbidden to women…

The language paints pictures in our minds

The rich diversity and amazing cultures and languages of indigenous North America… a short interview of Marianne Mithun, followed by several close-ups on fascinating aspects of these languages.

Before us, the deluge: What is the path to better records of more languages?

How can we make recordings of rare and precious languages accessible and secure for future generations? Let’s follow Nicholas Thieberger‘s detective job locating past recordings for preservation, and let’s discover his vision of the future of audiovisual archives.

The revelry of signs Ancient Maya language, writing and graphic pluralism

Ancient systems of graphs such as Maya glyphs, record the nuances of speech – they reveal who made them and why. Stephen Houston shows how their material form and playful invention, turn, to our delight, into a revelry of graphs.

Late but Twice Literate. Writing and Reading in Hittite Anatolia 1650-1200 BC

Although being part of the ancient Near Eastern world where cuneiform script had developed, the Anatolians nevertheless seem to have been slow in adopting it. Why was this? What hurdles did they face when adapting the script to their Indo-European language, Hittite? And why, once they had embraced it, did they still develop their own indigenous ‘hieroglyphic’ script? Theo van den Hout will discuss these and other as fascinating questions, in his presentation on Hittite, the oldest known Indo-European language.

Small-scale multilingualism in the Pacific space

Small-scale multilingualism refers to multilingual life in small-scale, often rural, societies, across the globe. This type of multilingualism, in which individuals share multilingual repertoires for a broad range of social purposes is very common, yet underrepresented in the public imagination of multilingualism and in multilingualism research. The ILARA two round-tables, which the first one is presented by Friederike Lüpke and Ruth Singer, present small-scale, egalitarian multilingualism to a broad and global audience. Our two round-tables on this theme have their focus on the pacific region, and on Africa, Amazonia and the Black Atlantic. The panelists work on settings that have been brutally affected by settler colonialism and areas that have experienced the often-violent effects of globalisation differently and include members of small-scale and Indigenous communities.

Small-scale multilingualism in Africa, Amazonia and the Atlantic space

Small-scale multilingualism refers to multilingual life in small-scale, often rural, societies, across the globe. This type of multilingualism, in which individuals share multilingual repertoires for a broad range of social purposes is very common, yet underrepresented in the public imagination of multilingualism and in multilingualism research. The ILARA round-tables present small-scale, egalitarian multilingualism to a broad and global audience. Our two round-tables, which the second one is presented by Friederike Lüpke, on this theme have their focus on the pacific region, and on Africa, Amazonia and the Black Atlantic. The panelists work on settings that have been brutally affected by settler colonialism and areas that have experienced the often-violent effects of globalisation differently and include members of small-scale and Indigenous communities.

The Ancient Egyptian writing, images, and practices in between

Ancient Egyptian writing was invented in a context of intense development of pictorial forms, and the two constituted an integrated system. While writing also developed for mundane purposes, primarily in cursive script, its hieroglyphic form continued to be elaborated in tandem with images. An intermediate, emblematic mode of representation linked and at the same time separated the other two, principal modes. Conventions of decorum constrained what could be shown in all three modes. Writing notated language, which was also the main basis of the emblematic mode, but neither of these modes had the prestige of images, so that the most important content was presented pictorially, with mainly hieroglyphic captions. The aim of this lecture, presented by John Baines, is to explore connections and interactions between these three modes.

Language acquisition in crosslinguistic context

Diversity is a key characteristic of human cultures and languages: children grow up in diverse socio-cultural settings around the world where they acquire one or more of the world’s 7000 or so languages, each presenting them with different challenges and opportunities for learning. Our theories of learning must thus be able to explain how children can learn any of these languages in any of these settings. But despite a proud history of crosslinguistic research, we only have acquisition data covering 1-2% of the world’s languages, with most of our knowledge coming from a very small number of major Western languages. In our panel discussion, we address the consequences of this empirical bias and explore the possibilities of extending acquisition research to more and varied languages. Throughout the discussion, animated by Birgit Hellwig, we illustrate some of the attested diversity with examples from languages such as Eegimaa, Inuktitut, Murrinhpatha, Pitjantjatjara and Qaqet.

When Speakers produce grammatical descriptions of their own languages

Many languages of the world have been passed on through oral tradition for thousands of years. Some of those languages are currently endangered, and one of the missions linguists have set for themselves in the last century or so, is to keep a record of those languages by describing them in the form of a grammar: a written description of the way a language is formally organized, with rules, and examples. Many speaker communities expect those grammars to be useful for them, by providing a path to literacy in their own languages. However, surveys have shown that despite the good intentions, such grammars are often disappointing to communities. With Pius Akumbu, this roundtable will explore the reasons for their disappointment, and suggest possible solutions, such as the taking up of grammar writing by native speakers themselves, with involvement of community members throughout the entire grammar writing process.

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