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International Chair 2023 - Jeff Good -University at Buffalo

From July 3, 2023, we will welcome Professor Jeff Good University at Buffalo (USA) for a series of four seminars on the theme "The typology and dynamics of multilingualism from a rural African perspective". The seminars will take place on 3, 5, 10 et 12 juillet 2023 de 16h à 18h on Campus CNRS, 7 rue Guy Môquet 94800 Villejuif - Bâtiment C - Aile sud - Salle de réunion du LLACAN 1er étage.

Seminars will also be held on zoom.

Abstract :

The goal of this course is to consider three interrelated questions in the investigation of multilingualism: (i) How can we best model society-level patterns of multilingualism in a way that takes into account individual-level variation in linguistic knowledge? (ii) What impact do different patterns of multilingualism have on processes of language change? And, (iii) how can we more effectively analyze and visualize the social and spatial distribution of multilingualism across a society? The discussion will draw primarily on examples of multilingual behavior from rural African societies, many of which have long been characterized by extensive individual- level multilingualism, though data from other parts of the world and urban societies will be considered as well.

One of the proposed seminars will specifically focus on interdisciplinary work currently being conducted with geographers with expertise in spatial network analysis and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). While the thematic area of focus for this course—i.e., the study of multilingualism—is most often associated with sociolinguistics, a central topic of the discussion will be the relationship between different patterns of multilingualism and dynamics of language change, which will make it of potential interest to a relatively wide linguistics audience. A description of the four proposed seminars is provided below.

Seminar 1: Motivations for multilingualism in rural Africa and beyond

This seminar will present a survey of the existing literature on rural multilingualism, with a focus on work on rural African societies. Key concerns will be distinguishing between the diverse social considerations that motivate individuals to acquire multilingual competences and identifying different historical “layers” of multilingualism within a society.

Seminar 2: Typologizing multilingualisms

Traditional typology compares specific structures across languages and classifies them into different types. Typologizing patterns of multilingualism requires devising ways to compare different kinds of observable multilingual behaviors. This seminar will consider how one can develop tools to rigorously compare multilingual behaviors across societies by focusing on attested kinds of variation in codeswitching and the social meanings associated with them.

Seminar 3: Multilingualism and language change and spread

This seminar will consider the ways that patterns of multilingualism may impact the direction of language change. Emphasis will be placed on two topics: (i) how individuals in multilingual societies may engage in deliberate or semi-deliberate processes of language change in order to create locally distinctive linguistic varieties and (ii) how processes of language shift and spread appear to operate in rural multilingual contexts.

Seminar 4: Spatial analysis of individual-level multilingualism

This seminar will consider how methods of (i) spatial analysis can be used to deepen understanding of the development of different patterns of multilingual competence at the individual level, (ii) the extent to which spatial signals can be detected in linguistic data, and (iii) how new kinds of language maps can be created that more accurately reflect the spatial distribution of linguistic knowledge in multilingual societies than is possible with traditional language maps.

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